Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb was honored as the Richard M. Fairbanks Circle of Hope Award recipient at the 2019 Fairbanks Circle of Hope Dinner.
The annual event, which celebrated its 18th year, is a fundraiser for Fairbanks’ patient assistance fund for those who are uninsured or under-insured. It also raises awareness about alcohol and drug addiction while honoring an individual or organization for outstanding contributions related to research, education, or treatment of drug and alcohol abuse and addiction.
Among Holcomb’s achievements cited at Circle of Hope in addressing the state’s opioid and addiction crises are:
“I know this is not about me,” Holcomb said in accepting the award. “This was total teamwork – an incredible, extraordinary team.”
He added the cause of fighting addiction would be tougher without treatment providers like Fairbanks.
“Decade after decade, Fairbanks has been an inspiration to folks across the spectrum,” Holcomb said.
Some of the most vivid days in Holcomb’s mind since being elected governor involve the topic of addiction. There was the day in August 2016 when a man came running up to him on the Carroll County courthouse square to shake his hand. The man added he wanted to shake Holcomb’s hand in six months. Campaigning for governor at the time, Holcomb thought he meant after winning the election. Before he could reply the man said, “I hope to be alive in six months.”
“The look in his eyes will never leave me,” Holcomb said. “I pledged from that day that this would be a central part of me.”
Last year he had a reunion with some of his Pike High School classmates and a favorite teacher. Two of them discussed their struggles of being parents to children with addiction issues. One had returned home from an international trip to discover all their furniture had been sold for drugs.
“These are people I grew up with, who were in very good stations in their lives, and they had no idea this was happening,” Holcomb said.
Another story caused the governor to choke up: meeting a fifth-grader whose dad had told her she’s worthless and he’s choosing drugs over her.
“What I’ve come to realize, sometimes painfully so, is that whatever the cost (to address addiction) pales in comparison to the cost of lost lives or lost families or lost happiness,” Holcomb said. “We have to, year after year, double down.”
And he’s seeing reasons for optimism, such as Indiana’s recidivism rate for drug arrests dropping for the past two years.
“We are moving in the right direction,” Holcomb said. “Souls are being saved.”