To better understand what they could do to help resolve the opioid epidemic, La Porte residents and officials representing gathered to hear the findings on the crisis from the Health Care Foundation of La Porte.
The opioid epidemic affects the lives of many Indiana residents with over 270,000 residents reporting misuse of prescription opioids and 24,000 saying they’ve used heroin in the past year. In La Porte County these stats hit particularly close to home as they have seen a higher increase in opioid abuse over the past few years. Over 100 La Porte residents have died from drug overdoses from 2012 to 2016 and over 50% of La Porte County treatment admissions in the last year were caused by the misuse of an opioid.
Organizers and attendees met at Purdue Northwest for a morning of discussions led by the team behind this latest study as well as representatives from state organizations dealing with similar issues. The study, created in conjunction with the IUPUI Center for Health Policy, gathered data on La Porte County's opioid issues and provided steps for how the community could fix these problems.
President of the Health Care Foundation of La Porte, Maria Fruth, understood the importance of gathering this data.
“Every time you make a decision, it’s important to have solid data and really understand why this is happening and how you can fix it, but also to highlight what is already working and how to make it better,” she stated.
Organizations from all over La Porte County were present at today’s presentation including Open Door Adolescent Health Center represented by Jenna Sickinger.
“We’re facing a crisis in our county,” said Sickinger. “It’s important we get more information on what is going on and how we can step in to help get La Porte County on the path of real change.”
Before the study was discussed, speaker and Family and Social Services Administration Secretary, Dr. Jennifer Walthall, first talked the attendees through Indiana’s own opioid addiction numbers. Since 1999, Indiana has seen a 1,038% increase in the unintentional poisoning death caused by opioids. While this might seem like an impossibly high number, it is still expected to increase.
“We haven’t even seen the peak yet,” Walthall said.
Walthall also made sure to add personal stories of individuals’ experiences to her talk.
“Data matters, but unless you put a face to those numbers no one is going to care,” she explained.
After Walthall, the three colleagues who worked on the study - Harold Kooreman, Marion Greene, and Dr. Josh Vest - presented the finding of their study to the public for the first time. They highlighted the challenges facing La Porte including lack of treatment services, poverty, and limited awareness as well as ways to increase the collective impact of the community on the issue. Preventing misuse of drugs before addiction occurs, providing access to treatment early, and supporting long-term recovery were all cornerstones of the groups plan to combat the opioid crisis
“Our goal is to get all the different sectors and everyone who is interested in addressing opioid misuse together and understand the great resource they are as a collective and to see how each of these sectors can come together to complement each other and best address these issues,” Dr. Vest said.
If you would like more information on the study as well as ways you can help out, check out the Healthcare Foundation of La Porte website.