Joe Lucas spent 2008 drifting from doorstep to doorstep and making phone call after phone call in search of a drug rehabilitation program that would take him.
"To be told, 'No, we don't have space for you' is heartbreaking," he said Monday. "It really takes the hope out of a person. You might call 10 places, and the first nine say, 'We're full.' And then you get to the 10th one, if you can get to the 10th one before you lose all hope and just quit trying."
His wasn't an unusual case -- it was just one of far too many usual ones straining the resources of nearby rehab facilities and forcing workers to turn all but the most desperate people away.
Lucas managed to enter recovery and stay sober as the opioid crisis metastasized over the next decade, but countless more drug users fell into the same situation he'd been in back then: Desperate for help they were simply unable to access.
Treatment programs still struggle to meet demand, especially for those who need in-patient care.
That's why the state of Indiana is partnering with OpenBeds, a service that allows treatment facilities to list their vacancies in a real-time, broadly connected database. If one facility can't place a patient at the moment that patient comes in, doctors will search OpenBeds to find a nearby program that can.
"(It's) taking the regional and geographic boundaries that we have out of the picture," Dr. Jennifer Walthall, a pediatrician and director of Indiana's Family and Social Services Administration. "It's saying, 'Hey, if we have a person here who's ready … and the bed that's open is here, we're going to make that connection."
Lucas, who now works to counsel others struggling with substance abuse, said it could be a lifesaver.
"When people are ready, they're ready right now," Walthall said.
Anyone wishing to seek treatment in Indiana can call 211 to connect with a caseworker and get started.