Indianapolis, In. — The Indiana State Department of Health (ISDH) is launching a program to help attract mental healthcare providers to rural areas of the state where more services are needed.The program will provide an incentive for psychiatrists, alcohol and substance use counselors and practitioners in related disciplines to practice in a specific, federally designated Indiana region experiencing high numbers of opioid deaths. The counties included are Blackford, Dearborn, Fayette, Franklin, Grant, Henry, Jay, Randolph, Switzerland, Union and Wayne. The program will be administered by the ISDH Division of Chronic Disease, Primary Care and Rural Health.“Attacking the drug crisis and helping people achieve recovery is a key pillar of Governor Holcomb’s agenda,” said Jim McClelland, Indiana executive director for Drug Prevention, Treatment and Enforcement. “This program will help bring more qualified medical professionals to rural Indiana communities and expand access to quality treatment for individuals with substance use disorder.”The project will make grants for professional loan repayments to qualifying providers in mental health and addiction-related disciplines first, followed by primary care physicians, who are also in short supply. The plan calls for 30 awards for each year of the four-year grant period. The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) will match the $300,000 ISDH is investing in the program for a total repayment pool of $600,000. An advisory committee, with the Family and Social Services Administration’s Division of Mental Health and Addiction and the Indiana Hospital Association as partners, will be formed to help with project development and grant awards by March. Applications are available online at https://www.in.gov/isdh/28090.htm.“Access to treatment is a critical component of our effort to reduce the burden of the opioid epidemic,” said ISDH Chronic Disease Director Ann Alley. “This program will help save lives by increasing access to mental health services and removing barriers to recovery.”According to HRSA, 46 of Indiana’s 48 rural counties don’t have enough mental healthcare providers. ISDH data show 42 of those counties had at least one death attributed to opioids in 2016, while seven of them had the highest number of opioid-related deaths in the state. Many of those same counties or their neighbors are on HRSA’s list of the top 5 percent most vulnerable for opioid use by state.