Chesterton Tribune

Calls for help from heroin addicts on the rise

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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 habit elsewhere.

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 treatment center.

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.

 

Posted 3/22/2004