By VICKI URBANIK
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
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.