By KEVIN NEVERS
The Chesterton Town Council could hardly have chosen a better time to launch
its anti-drug campaign.
Or worse time, as the case may be.
Rocco Schiralli, the vice-president of programs at Porter-Starke Services
and the president of the Community Action Drug Coalition, is no stranger to
heroin addiction. Yet even Schiralli is struck by a recent uptick in the
number of calls received by Porter-Starke from heroin addicts who want help.
“It’s been bad, it’s always been bad, but in the last three months it’s been
unusually bad in terms of the calls we’ve gotten,” he said. “We get calls
constantly about heroin.”
Sometimes long-distance calls, Schiralli added, from young people who became
addicted in high school here and are now trying to juggle college and a
In Schiralli’s view, the supply of heroin has largely created the demand.
“It’s unbelievably available,” he said, “it’s inexpensive, and it’s
devastating once you get started. It’s frightening.” Put it in these terms:
for the price of a couple of CDs, kids can buy themselves a wicked habit.
Kicking that habit, on the other hand—if they ever do succeed in kicking
it—is likely to cost them or their families tens of thousands of dollars,
because the availability of heroin is simply not matched by a corresponding
availability of affordable treatment programs. That unfortunate asymmetry
CADC has set itself the task of correcting, at least on a limited basis.
CADC was formally organized in February 2001 and has been meeting every
month since then, a grass-roots organization of police officers, counselors,
parents, and community and business leaders for whom apathy was no longer an
option. Among other projects, CADC sponsored a well-attended summit at the
Porter County Expo Center on the drug problem in April 2001 and developed a
“road show” for presentation before parent-teacher associations, church
groups, service organizations, and employers.
But CADC long ago concluded that, if the preferable way of fighting the
problem is persuading children not to start taking drugs in the first place,
education on the whole has nevertheless clearly failed and kids are not just
saying no. Hence the crying need in Porter County for an in-patient
At 9 a.m. Saturday, April 17, CADC is therefore sponsoring the Walk Away
from Drugs fundraiser at the Coffee Creek Watershed Preserve. Proceeds from
the event will be used to establish a recovery group home somewhere in
Porter County—probably Valparaiso or Portage—for the treatment of young
adult males addicted to drugs.
As Schiralli noted, one of the tragedies of addiction is that all too often
addicts have exhausted all of their resources. They are unemployed and may
never have been employed, they have no health insurance, and their families
have long since lost the will or the ability to cope with them. More to the
point, many addicts typically lack the basic skills of self-sufficiency, so
that even if they can beat the addiction temporarily—after a period of
incarceration at the Porter County Jail, say—they don’t know how to stay
clean, how to hold a job, how to pay their bills, how to obtain medical
care. The goal of the recovery group home, as envisioned by CADC, would be
to teach these young men how to become self-sufficient while working to
reunite them with their families.
CADC has yet to finalize any details. Schiralli said that the recovery group
home would provide access to psychiatric care, self-help workshops, and job
training, would probably have a capacity of 10 to 15, and would work to
mainstream participants after three to six months. After 30 days, he added,
participants would probably be expected to contribute to the cost of the
home. “We’ll start off with a model that is manageable and affordable, get
it up and running, and then we’ll work from there,” Schiralli said.
CADC is encouraging individuals and teams to obtain pledges and participate
in the walk-a-thon, which features both a three-mile course and a shorter
course. CADC is also seeking organizations to sponsor the event and
businesses which contribute over $1,000 will see their company’s logo on
event merchandise. Musical entertainment and refreshments will be provided
and free tee-shirts given to the first 200 people who raise $50.
Anyone interested in assembling a team must attend a meeting at 6 p.m.
Wednesday at the office of KLD Marketing Research Inc., at 570 Vale Park
Road, Suite B, in Valparaiso. For more information contact Kathy DeWitt at
464-4668 or Dr. Mann Spitler at 464-9588.