CDC data reports nearly 18% decrease in Indiana overdose deaths

Narcan is sold over-the-counter at an Indianapolis pharmacy. The state said it distributes 24,000 doses of opioid-reversal agent naloxone monthly as part of ongoing efforts to reduce overdose deaths, which fell by an estimated 18% between 2022 and 2023. (Whitney Downard/Indiana Capital Chronicle)
By Whitney Downard
Indiana Capital Chronicle

INDIANAPOLIS — The Hoosier state saw the second-highest percentage decrease nationwide for overdose deaths in 2023 at nearly 18%, compared to 3% nationwide, according to provisional data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)’s National Center for Health Statistics.

In Indiana, overdose deaths fell from an estimated 2,666 in 2022 to 2,190 in 2023. Across the country, an estimated 107,543 people died by overdose, down from 111,029 estimated deaths the year before. The CDC notes that there are delays in reporting of deaths and fatal overdoses might be underreported.

“Hours after I was sworn in as governor in 2017, I signed an executive order creating a new cabinet-level position in state government dedicated to reversing the trend of overdose deaths,” Gov. Eric Holcomb said in a release Thursday. “In the seven years since, Indiana has taken thoughtful steps to address this epidemic. This encouraging trend underscores the collective efforts and strategic initiatives implemented to combat substance use throughout our great state.”

Holcomb listed several ongoing state efforts to combat fatal overdoses: extending the state’s Medicaid demonstration waiver to expand coverage for a full range of substance use disorder treatments for enrollees and the Family and Social Services Administration’s reported 385% expansion of residential treatment beds, for a total of 2,900 statewide, since 2017.

Additionally, his administration’s Shatterproof Treatment Atlas provides “a free, confidential tool to connect Hoosiers in need with appropriate addiction treatment and deliver user-friendly information about the quality of available programs.”

“From the outset of his administration, Gov. Holcomb has emphasized the need for an all-hands-on-deck approach to combat the drug epidemic,” said Douglas Huntsinger, the state’s executive director for drug prevention, treatment and enforcement. “These numbers are a testament to the collaborative efforts of countless stakeholders who have contributed to Indiana’s comprehensive treatment and recovery infrastructure.”

External partnerships include Overdose Lifeline, Inc., a nonprofit that distributes testing strips and provides other supports for those affected by substance use disorder. Together, Overdose Lifeline and the state have distributed 24,000 doses monthly of opioid-reversal agent naloxone.

Additionally, $30 million of Indiana’s share of national opioid settlement funds have spurred the creation of 440 new recovery residence beds and 15 harm reduction street outreach teams, the release said. Further efforts are details in the state’s Next Level Recovery Progress Report.

“While we celebrate this progress, it is not lost on us the thousands of Hoosiers who have lost their lives or are currently living with this disease,” Holcomb said. “We remain steadfast in our commitment to furthering efforts to prevent substance use, expand access to treatment, and support Hoosiers on their path to recovery.”

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The Indiana Capital Chronicle is an independent, nonprofit news organization dedicated to giving Hoosiers a comprehensive look inside state government, policy and elections. The site combines daily coverage with in-depth scrutiny, political awareness and insightful commentary.

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