State lawmaker tackles opioid epidemic

Sen. Jim Merritt speaking at a press conference about the bills he is authoring for the 2018 legislative session regarding prescription reform.
Photo by Makenna Mays,

By Makenna Mays

INDIANAPOLIS – Indiana Sen. Jim Merritt, R-Indianapolis, said Tuesday he will author for the 2018 legislative session he hopes will combat the opioid epidemic.

“Our goal this session is to work towards prescription reform along with, as we’ve talked about before, drug-dealing reform,” Merritt said.

Merritt’s proposed legislation includes:

  • mandatory registration in INSPECT, Indiana’s prescription drug monitoring system by all controlled-substance registration holders;
  • mandatory lockable vials for prescriptions;
  • making reports of the use of Naloxone accessible to providers;
  • and a statewide prescription take-back program.

Merritt described the impact of Senate Bill 226, which he authored. He said it limits the number of opioids that can be prescribed. Since it became law, there have been 67,000 fewer opioid prescriptions.

“That is success,” Merritt said.

Merritt said Gov. Eric Holcomb is working on the idea of making sure all hospitals are integrated with INSPECT. Additionally, Merritt’s proposal for lockable prescription vials would aim to ensure all prescriptions leave the pharmacy with a PIN number.

“It’s almost like operation medicine cabinet, where you can put the vial in the medicine cabinet and know no one can get it,” Merritt said.

Nothing stops people now from returning their unused prescriptions, but Merritt said a statewide take-back program would ensure that everyone knows about this option.

“I have had constituents who have gone to police station after police station trying to get rid of bags of opioids,” Merritt said.

This would be a comprehensive statewide program requiring pharmacies to have take-back facilities.

“It is my goal that if you are dispensed a pharmaceutical that you can take it back to the same facility,” Merritt said. 

Merritt said this proposed legislation was not to make life harder for pharmaceutical companies.

“For those distributors of opioids, we’re not making them the bad guys. We’re asking them to be part of the solution,” Merritt said.

Merritt proposed legislation earlier this year that would result in harsher penalties for drug dealers, including a 10-year mandatory minimum for those dealing fentanyl, a powerful opioid.

Makenna Mays is a reporter for, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.

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