Kaleb Lane Pursues a Passion Helping Others Deal With Substance Use and Mental Health Challenges

Marked, not broken.

Indiana mental health and recovery advocate Kaleb Lane’s scars, both physical and mental, stand as powerful symbols of resilience, illustrating the remarkable journey that materializes when one unconditionally commits to the notion that fighting back is the only option they have left.

How does the world measure a second chance? At 18, a devastating back injury propelled him into a harrowing battle with prescription medication that doctors insisted would bring healing, but ultimately only made the pain worse – a story mirroring the experience of countless Americans who fell into the unforgiving grips of the opioid epidemic.

Today, Lane walks with a complete rejection of victimhood, and instead has taken the long road from the very depths of his own mind to the pinnacle of advocacy, playing a pivotal role in leading the local charge against the same forces that almost removed him for good.

As of early 2024, the attorney general’s office has secured over $925 million in opioid settlements for Hoosier communities, which includes Indiana’s active participation in the $26 billion national settlement with Johnson & Johnson, AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health and McKesson, emphasizing the importance of accountability from manufacturers and distributors.

Though the funds will be spent over an extended period, in late 2023 Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb’s office presented the Family and Social Services Administration and Division of Mental Health and Addiction a $25 million grant, which included the allocation of $3.5 million for treatment, $4 million for prevention, and $1.5 million for harm reduction, as well as criminal-justice-related programs and administrative costs.

Early in Lane’s recovery process, what started as simply attending a recovery circle turned into not only the bright spot that now defines his life, but a full-circle moment. The substantial lawsuit sum that came from the same corporations that enabled his prescription medication battle now funds multiple mental health and recovery organizations he directly works with.

“I was attending a small recovery group and my pastor recommended I go apply for a job at a place called Upstream Prevention,” he said. “I found out a little bit about them and learned that they were a recovery and harm reduction organization that had, at that time, become interested in expanding their efforts. I became the first and only peer on the staff.”

Upstream Prevention, Inc., an organization partly funded by grants that the state awards, works to support system-level changes to promote prevention and reduction of community substance use and mental health challenges. As a result of Upstream’s Indiana CAREs ECHO grant, Lane was brought in to focus significantly on the harm reduction and outreach initiatives that the organization offers. This includes not only being an outreach resource for the community, but also being on the other end of the phone when Hoosiers call the 9-8-8 number, a hotline for people experiencing a mental health or suicide crisis.

“My boss told me to ‘go and do good things,’” Lane said. “That gave me the freedom to do the things our community needed, which include peer support in the local hospital, being on the overdose response team, planning sober social events, and helping open potential recovery centers. When people wake up and come-to while they are in the hospital recovering from overdoses, I’m most times one of the first faces they see. I can help when others can’t, and when we have a heart of service and give back to our community, our lives become more meaningful and filled with purpose.”

Lane is fully aware that there is a local and national “not in my backyard” stigma and mentality when it comes to fighting back against the opioid epidemic and mental health crisis. He gives high praise not only to the people who make these types of moments possible, but also those who are all-in and have committed to help fight the same fight as him.

“The unsung heroes, to me, are the people at the Johnson County Health Department,” he said. “They’ve done a great job keeping politics and ideology out of it. They just want to do good things for the people and place they serve. And though it has been gradual, a reduction in stigma has happened. Progress has been made. But it takes a whole community to buy in.”

The Johnson County prosecutor’s office, whose role is to prosecute illegal drug possession, has shown support rooted in motives other than arrest quotas and department pride.

“We have dinners and events to help raise awareness of what we’re fighting against, and typically try to get community members to come out and be a part of it,” Lane said. “We actually had the Johnson County prosecutor’s office show up, as well as the county coroner and people from the problem-solving court. They didn’t have to do that. It’s not their job to. They were there because they believed in what we do. It was a great feeling.”

Lane’s narrative vividly illustrates the profound value of a second chance. His journey embodies the transformative power inherent in such an opportunity. Through unwavering commitment and resilience, Lane not only overcame harrowing challenges, but also crafted a life surpassing any expectations he may have once had for himself. His second chance served as the catalyst for a journey, highlighting the extraordinary potential embedded in every fresh start.

“People like me who almost lost my life have a different type of zest for life,” he said. “You’re freer than ever and take nothing for granted.”

Comments 2

  1. Mama A. says:

    Kaleb, you and Ely are my heroes!

  2. Susan Gauger says:

    Bless you and thank you for your continued help in helping the ones that many forget. This world is a better place because of you.

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