Douglas Huntsinger

Douglas Huntsinger, a Frankton native, will be taking over as Indiana’s executive director for drug prevention, treatment and enforcement in January.

INDIANAPOLIS — Douglas Huntsinger went to Indiana State University with plans of becoming a funeral director, but instead followed a path into government that started when he was handed a business card.

The Frankton native got involved in student government, which led to an appointment on the university’s board of trustees. It was there Mike Alley, then president of Fifth Third Bank, handed him a business card.

“He threw me a business card and said there is this guy who is going to come back from D.C .and run for governor; you should go volunteer,” Huntsinger said.

Volunteering for Mitch Daniels’ campaign led to a job in his administration and a career in government.

“It just sort of snowballed, by just taking a business card and giving somebody a call, that led me to here,” Huntsinger said.

His next step in public service will be taking over as Indiana’s “drug czar” following the retirement of Jim McClelland in January.

In response to Indiana’s addiction epidemic, Gov. Eric Holcomb’s first act in office in 2017 was to create the position of executive director for Drug Prevention, Treatment and Enforcement and appointed McClelland to the job. The executive director also serves as chairman of the Indiana Commission to Combat Drug Abuse.

Huntsinger came on board as deputy director in February 2017. Before that, he was executive producer of the Indiana State Fair.

After three years McClelland is retiring and Huntsinger has been chosen by the governor to take his place.

The “drug czar” and his team oversee the activities of the state agencies involved in responding to the state’s addiction epidemic and ensure everyone understands the state’s goals and are working together.

“It’s been an undertaking these last three years, but we’ve seen a lot of progress,” Huntsinger said.

In three years, the state has increased inpatient beds by 68%, and 63,000 have received addiction treatment through the state’s Medicaid Section 1115 Substance Use Disorder waiver, Huntsinger said.

“The first thing is to continue the momentum. We’ve got a lot of great things going,” said McClelland when asked about taking over.

Moving forward, he is excited about comprehensive addiction recovery centers, a network of resources like inpatient and outpatient treatment, medication assisted treatment, various recovery supports, housing, workforce training, child care and family support.

Many larger communities already have these services, but the recovery center brings them together.

“(The centers) ensure that no matter what door you come in they’re going to get you to the right starting point,” Huntsinger said.

Huntsinger, 37, and his husband, Bryan McHugh, live in Indianapolis.

He graduated from Frankton High School in 2000 and his parents, Dennis and Cathy, are retired Frankton school teachers.

When Huntsinger decided to change his major at Indiana State, his father wondered what he could do with a political science degree.

After coming to Anderson a few weeks ago for an Indiana Jail Overcrowding Task Force meeting, Huntsinger met his parents at Bonge’s Tavern in Perkinsville for dinner where he shared the news of his new job.

Dennis Huntsinger remembered his concern all those years earlier about his son’s new major. Turns out he didn’t need to worry.

“My dad goes ‘remember all those years ago I asked you what you were going to do with that political science degree? ... I guess it worked out for you, didn’t it,’” Huntsinger said.

Follow Don Knight on Twitter @donwknight, or call 765-622-1212 ext. 204567.

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