Senator Donnelly Nominates Justin Phillips for “Champions of Change” recognition

The following was posted on Senator Donnelly’s website Thursday, December 17, 2015
Justin’s efforts on behalf of Hoosier families, in memory of her son, are making an extraordinary difference in Central Indiana and across the state.”

Donnelly Nominates Indianapolis Resident for White House “Champions of Change” Recognition

Justin Phillips has been a strong advocate in fight against heroin epidemic in Indiana

Washington, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Joe Donnelly announced that he has nominated Justin Phillips of Indianapolis for the White House’s “Champions of Change” initiative in recognition of her continued work in the fight against Indiana’s prescription opioid abuse and heroin use epidemic. After losing her 20-year old son, Aaron Sims, to a heroin overdose in 2013, Justin has become a leading voice for families facing addiction through her efforts to advance prevention, treatment, and recovery services in Indiana.

Donnelly said, “Justin’s determination and effort over the past year are proof of the power that a dedicated individual has to effect change in her community. Justin’s efforts on behalf of Hoosier families, in memory of her son, are making an extraordinary difference in Central Indiana and across the state. It’s going to take all of us – federal, state, and local officials, and smart, committed Hoosiers like Justin to raise awareness about drug addiction and effectively combat it. Justin Phillips exemplifies the qualities of a true Champion of Change, and I am proud to recommend her for this honor.”

Phillips said, “I am truly humbled to be nominated as a Champion of Change by Senator Donnelly and thank him for his continued support of our efforts at Overdose Lifeline, Inc. Since the death of my son and the creation of the foundation soon after, I have met far too many families who have experienced a journey similar to my own. Though personal, our experiences are unfortunately not unique. We know that the epidemic of opioid abuse found within our own Hoosier state is also sweeping through countless other communities across our country. That is why I continue to work tirelessly to fight for those still battling opioid addictions in hopes of giving them and their families a second chance at a life. By doing so, I am able to channel my grief into something positive. It is what Aaron, my deeply caring, empathetic, loving son would have done as well if he had more time with us.”

In 2014, Justin founded the non-profit Overdose Lifeline to help purchase naloxone, an opioid reversal drug, for first-responders in the Indianapolis area. She also worked with Indiana legislators on a bill known as Aaron’s Law to expand access to naloxone prescriptions for others beyond first responders. After months of advocacy, Aaron’s Law was enacted in April 2015.

Through her work with Overdose Lifeline, Justin has also focused on providing educational resources and support events for families and individuals impacted by heroin addiction. Overdose Lifeline has developed an educational program to inform high school students about the risks of prescription opioid abuse and heroin use, and has also hosted several free training and distribution events to provide naloxone to first-responders and the general public in Central Indiana.

Donnelly has been working to combat the opioid abuse and heroin use epidemics in Indiana and across the country. He reintroduced the bipartisan Heroin and Prescription Opioid Abuse Prevention, Education, and Enforcement Act with Senator Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) in April this year; hosted a bipartisan round table discussion at IUPUI with U.S. Representative Susan Brooks (IN-05), Indiana and federal health officials, doctors, and pharmacists to hear directly from Hoosiers about best practices to help curb the opioid-abuse epidemic; and made recommendations in a letter to the Governor’s Drug Task Force, providing suggestions for short- and long-term responses to Indiana’s addiction problems. Last month, the Protecting our Infants Act to help newborns suffering from opioid withdrawal and painful symptoms associated with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS), which Donnelly cosponsored and helped pass the Senate, was signed into law by President Obama.

Both state and federal officials are acting on some of the bipartisan policies Donnelly has advocated for, including improving prescribing practices and enhancing prescriber engagement, raising public awareness of the dangers of prescription drug abuse and heroin use, and better utilizing prescription drug monitoring programs at the state level.

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