INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - Indiana Gov. Mike Pence is forming a task force to recommend steps that state officials should take to fight drug abuse.

Pence announced the 21-member panel on Tuesday, saying it would hold three meetings around Indiana during the coming months as it considers ways to improve the state's response in treating and preventing drug abuse.

Pence says Indiana now has the 16th highest drug overdose rate in the country, with a 500 percent increase in such deaths between 1999 and 2009.

The move comes as several counties around the state are seeking approval for needle-exchange programs because of diseases spreading among intravenous drug users.

The new task force includes health and law enforcement officials and state legislators.

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