There’s no way to tell this story without starting with the bad news first.
The stark reality is that many of our community’s residents are facing a troubling amount of life threatening matters. Issues like substance abuse and untreated mental health disorders can be deadly. We’re a Good News company, but we want to take this time to address these concerns and to also share the Good News that there are many resources in Northwest Indiana for help. With awareness, education, and a helping hand by any of us connected to someone who is struggling, we together may help keep some of the bad news from happening.
Porter County Coroner, Chuck Harris, visited our office to discuss these issues that are facing our community.
“We have about 25 - 35 suicides a year in Porter County,” Harris said. “When I begin a suicide investigation, one of the first things I ask a family member is if they had a history of mental health problems or substance abuse. It's very rare when they say no.”
Every 3 years Porter County has at least 100 deaths because of substance abuse. In 2015 the county experienced 35 deadly overdoses. Last year has surpassed those numbers. A large portion of these deaths were because of heroin, but the majority resulted from synthetic opiates.
“A lot of our overdoses are because of prescription pill abuse. When they’re buying it off the street that's even worse. It's not hard to buy a pill press and manufacture counterfeit pills, that are sometimes cut with something much worse.”
For many users, the road to heroin use begins at the doctor’s office. A patient may be seeking a prescription pain pill to address a medical issue they are having. From extended use, the patient can become addicted to that pill. Once the body builds up a tolerance or that patient can no longer afford the pill, they sometimes turn to a much cheaper option: heroin.
“Right now heroin is the #1 illegal drug in our country.” Harris explained, “It's relatively inexpensive for someone just starting with substance abuse. A single one-gram dose of heroin can cost about $10 right now. But, the cost really depends on the purity. As the habit builds, so does the tolerance. Someone with a major heroin addiction can spend $100-$200 a day.”
A major factor that attributes to the increase of overdoses is the dealer’s lack of care towards their customers. For every overdose, there is always someone else that will become a new customer.
“Dealers are to the point right now where they don’t have any interest if their customers live or die. They’re cutting their heroin with substances that are designed to kill them. In our county and around the country, we’ve found dealers mixing their doses with deadly amounts of fentanyl and carfentanil, which is an elephant tranquilizer. They know if they get a few O.D.’s from their product, everyone will want to try their super strong heroin. And that’s how they increase their sales.”
Hands of Hope Out There to Turn to:
Steps to turn the tide begin with the person in need as well as ourselves. We need to be aware that these people are sick and in need of help. Instead of separating ourselves from them, we need to show them the outstanding resources available for them throughout our community. It starts with a change in our mindset before we can fix the issue.
Mental health and substance abuse often go hand in hand. Untreated mental health disorders can lead to substance abuse. Rather than seek medical or psychiatric attention, an individual with a mental health disorder may seek to self-medicate with illegal or harmful substances.
“We’ve created a culture where it's okay to work with someone who has cancer or heart disease. But, we are wary of someone who has schizophrenia and has to take medication. Neither condition was something the person chose. Yet we have empathy and compassion for the person with cancer, but lack that for the person with a mental health problem. Because of this culture, it’s harder for someone to come forward for help. They’re afraid of being ostracized by their family, friends, or co-workers. This only makes the problem worse and can ultimately lead to additional self-harm. What we need to fix here is our awareness and understanding, so we can give these suffering people the treatment and care they deserve.” said Harris
The biggest step a suffering individual can make is admitting they have a problem they cannot fix on their own. From there it's about determining what appropriate care should be administered to that person. Northwest Indiana has many resources available to people suffering from addiction and mental health disorders.
For substance abuse, the next step after acknowledging the addiction is detoxification and rehab. Here is a list of areas that specialize in mental health wellness in Northwest Indiana:
Regional Mental Health
St. Catherine Hospital Behavioral Health Services
Michiana Behavioral Health Plymouth Indiana
In Porter and Starke County, a fantastic resource for both mental health and drug abuse is Porter-Starke Services. The Porter Starke location in Valparaiso has both an Inpatient and Outpatient Center for mental health assistance. This location also has the only methadone clinic in Porter County. Porter Starke’s Recovery Center offers counseling, doctor assistance, and a dose of methadone all for $13 a day. Porter Starke also pushes for community awareness through their yearly Turkey Trot and Out of the Darkness Suicide Prevention Walk.
Moraine House Valparaiso
Another location for substance abuse is the Moraine House in Valparaiso. Moraine House is a home to 13 residents in various stages of recovery. This treatment program is recommended for 180 days. During residency the residents adhere to all rules and regulations of Moraine House, attend AA and NA meetings at least 3 times a week, participate in the Recovery Dynamics program and the Back to Basics program, meet the Bridge Gap Committee which reviews the residents progress each week, seek employment (if not employed), and finds at least one local AA or NA sponsor in the Valparaiso area.
There are several halfway houses located throughout Valparaiso. Respite House is a halfway house for men. Respite House is a one-level structure with adequate living space for 15 residents. For women, Valparaiso has Alice’s House, which is a halfway house for women seeking similar treatment. Porter Starke Services also has a Women's Recovery Home available as well.
Pick Up the Phone and Ask For Help:
A small step an individual can take on their own is just by speaking to a professional who works in the field about their problems or recurring issues. These phone calls remain anonymous, unless there is an immediate danger where the individual may harm themselves.
Regional East Chicago and Merrillville Crisis Line: 219-769-4005
Porter Starke Crisis Hotline: 219-464-4939
Non-Crisis Hotline - Porter Starke Services: 1-800-519-0469
National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255
Let’s turn the tide. There is help available. An individual seeking help can start anywhere by just phoning or contacting one of these resources. There are many people throughout Northwest Indiana that just want to help. The support is there. It’s up to us to make sure those in need are aware and receive it.