Chesterton Tribune



United Way releases data on local opioid crisis

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United Way of Porter County has released its findings on the current state of the opioid crisis in Porter County and its place in the larger state and national context.

Among those findings, as presented by Cara Jones, United Against Opioid Abuse program director:

* Drug overdose is the leading cause of death for Americans under the age of 50.

* From 2015 to 2017, Porter County saw nearly an 80-percent rise in opioid related deaths and a 191-percent increase in heroin specific deaths.

* Prescription rates for pharmaceutical opioids in Porter County peaked in 2012 at 107 per 100 people. It has since dropped to 89.9 per 100, which is nevertheless significantly higher than the state average in 2016 of 83.9 per 100 and the national average of 66.5 per 100.

* Porter County’s overall drug overdose rate is in the top 6-percent of counties nationwide, at 27.8 per 100,000 people; while its specific opioid overdose rate is in the top 8 percent, at 14.3 percent. Porter County’s overall drug overdose rate is the seventh highest of Indiana’s 92 counties, with LaPorte County’s the ninth highest and Lake County’s the 12th highest.

* Porter County’s opioid overdose rate of 14.3 per 100,000 people is higher than its car crash rate (11.7 percent) and higher than its breast cancer rate (13.2). Its overall drug overdose rate of 28 per 100,000 people is the same as its diabetes rate (22.8) and the same as its stroke rate (28).

* Between 1999 and 2016, fatal opioid overdose rates in all demographics have increased. The largest increase has been in the 25 to 34 age group, at 1,200 percent.

* There has also been a surge of non-fatal opioid overdoses in Porter County. Between 2009 and 2016, non-fatal overdoses increased by 197 percent; and between 2015 and 2016 alone, non-fatal overdoses increased by 134 percent. The study attributes many of the lives saved to the use of the Narcan, an emergency anti-opioid treatment issued to all police departments in the county.

* In 2017 there were 50 drug-related fatalities in Porter County, with 43 of them opioid-related. The average age of the victim: 37. The age range: 20 to 64. Seventy-eight percent of the victims were Porter County residents, and 58 percent died in their own homes. By municipality: 38 percent of the victims were located in Portage; 22 percent in Valparaiso; 16 percent in Chesterton; 8 percent in South Haven; 4 percent in Burns Harbor; and 2 percent in Westville.

The study also made the following recommendations for battling the opioid crisis:

* “We need to work at having an accurate, common understanding of addiction.”

* “We need more open honest dialogue that works towards normalizing addiction and mental health, as well as giving people a vocabulary to discuss it.”

* “Trust needs to be built and earned, and we need to make this effort with our neighbors and with individuals in recovery.”

* “Honest, real prevention.”

* “Develop connections to make system-of-care fluid and easy to navigate.”

* “Better aftercare and recovery programming.”

* “Harm reduction needs to be approached in an honest, pragmatic way.”

The goal of United Against Opioid Abuse initiative: to better understand the issues facing addicts and their families, the resources available, and how to engage the community in the solution.

“We’re making great strides in establishing the context of our community’s situation,” said Kim Olesker, president & CEO of United Way of Porter County. “Only a continuous system of care can help resolve the crisis for Porter County and the Region. As we move forward in developing solutions, we look for assistance from all facets of the community to join us in the fight.”

Jones, as part of United Against Opioid Abuse, has been working with community partners, coalitions, and stakeholders to gather data, map existing resources and services, identify service gaps, and create long-term collaborations to address the crisis. Recently, United Way has developed a partnership with Northwest Indiana Information Sharing & Security Alliance (NIISSA) to continue the United Against Opioid Abuse work on a regional level. The result is the newly formed Opioid Workgroup that will focus on finding regional solutions to combat the opioid crisis.

This grassroots effort will catalog existing resources, identify service gaps and utilize a disaster response approach to develop solutions with the goal being to reduce overdoses and fill substance abuse service gaps in Porter, Lake, LaPorte, Jasper, and Newton counties.

Jones welcomes the opportunity to share the United Against Opioid Abuse report with the public. If interested in hosting a public presentation on this topic, email or call (219) 464-3538.

The United Against Opioid Abuse Porter County Report is available at



Posted 7/26/2018




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