Chesterton Tribune

Conover: Time to end blame game and team to fight county drug problem

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Porter County Council member Karen Conover, R-at large, publicly called for an end to blaming police, the schools and parents for the “rampant” drug use among youth.

Taking a few minutes at Porter County Council’s meeting Tuesday, Conover read from a prepared statement, at times her voice strained with emotion as she addressed the scourge of substance abuse.

“If by the grace of God go you and it’s not in your home, you do know someone personally dealing with the disease called addiction,” Conover said. “Dangerous drugs are here. We must find community solutions to a community problem. What we’ve been doing, folks, is not enough.

Her comments came the day after the Chesterton Town Council held a workshop on local drug use. Three weeks ago, also in Chesterton, a parent-organized meeting led to a restructuring of a Bible study youth group, which prompted concerns from parents and neighbors about youth tobacco and drug use during the large gatherings.

Conover, whose son’s heroin addiction has been well publicized, said that contrary to a recent news story, her son Justin didn’t intend to be a “poster child for heroin” but a police officer and attorney and possibly a judge. She also cited recent blame heaped on the parents of drug addicts, deriding them as heroes for wanting to find solutions.

“Quite the contrary, I don’t have a medal, just a broken heart,” she said.

Conover commended the Chesterton and Porter town councils for their recent public discussion on the issue and questioned what the county government has done. The county, she said, can take some credit for allowing a $25 booking fee at the county jail, which pays for a contract with Porter Starke to counsel those incarcerated for substance abuses

She called for continued support for fully funding Porter Starke for mental health services as well as substance abuse.

“We need to be mindful of the individuals needing service that have not held steady jobs, nor enjoy the benefit of health insurance. It is also an unfortunate price they pay for their problem. Our mental health provider can be a stop gap for those who fit into this category. It is a small cost to taxpayers comparatively speaking. Housing inmates in the jail cost much more.”

Conover also said the county’s narcotics unit is “short staffed and frustrated beyond belief. Their phones and pagers ring constantly, and this is no exaggeration.”

She invited her colleagues and the public to visit the jail and see those incarcerated and learn why and to visit the courts and see the caseload of the judges as they decide how to save lives in drug cases while balancing the need to keep the community safe.

She also put in a plug for the upcoming “Walk Away from Drugs” fundraiser for the Community Action Drug Coalition, which is hoping to raise funds for a men’s recovery home. The event will be at 9 a.m. April 17 at the Coffee Creek Watershed Preserve in Chesterton.

The only other council member who commented on the issue was Council President William Carmichael, R-at large, who said that as the grandfather of nine, with the oldest being 18, substance abuse is a concern to him as well. Anyone who doesn’t think this county has a drug problem has their “head in the sand” and should talk with an emergency room nurse to learn otherwise, he said.


Posted 3/24/2004