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County Council mulls funding for new drug addiction center

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A new treatment center for teens addicted to drugs is scheduled to open in Porter County in less than a year, though it remains to be seen exactly where all the money is going to come from to get the Pathway Family Center off the ground locally.

On Tuesday, members of the Community Action Drug Coalition made their pitch to the Porter County Council for county funds to help bring the non-profit Pathway here. As Pathway President and Chief Executive Officer Terri Nissley put it, the need for a Porter County facility is abundantly clear: Porter County teens now make up about 20 to 25 percent of the Indianapolis center’s census at any time.

“These parents are so desperate they’re coming to Indianapolis,” Nissley said.

One such family was the Brown family of Chesterton. Julie Brown told the council that her son, a former Eagle Scout and straight-A student, became addicted to heroin, got arrested selling drugs at Chesterton High School and was jailed.

After the family tried just about everything to help their son, they learned about Pathway. They began making the trips to Indianapolis every weekend. In the meantime, their second son became addicted to cold packets and he, too, enrolled in Pathway.

Brown told the council that all three of her boys are now doing well and she considers her family a success story. Participating in Pathway was “one of the hardest things we’ve ever done in our lives,” she said, but added that it was worth it. “It gave back my family.”

To bring a Pathway center to Porter County, the CADC has raised $100,000 toward the $300,000 needed in initial start-up funds. Nissley said $1 million will be needed for the center’s first 18 months, with funding to come from grants, fundraisers, and campaign drives.

The Porter County Pathway center is projected to open in August of next year, serving 25 to 30 kids at any one time. A business plan and site selection process is underway.

If the county council agrees to chip in some county funds, two funding possibilities emerged Tuesday.

Porter County Circuit Court Judge Mary Harper reminded the council that later this year, she will return to the county general fund about $225,000 in unused funds set aside for housing expenses for juveniles ordered to the state correctional system. She said Pathway is a solid program, and that she would support using her court funds toward the project.

In addition, Porter County Council member William Carmichael, R-at large, suggested using unallocated county income tax funds. Commissioner President Robert Harper, who initially urged county officials to consider funding toward the project, said the commissioners have about $1.3 million in unallocated funds.

Although some council members appeared very much in support of the endeavor, it’s not yet certain the council will put up any money. Council President Dan Whitten, D-at large, said he wants to get more information about the program, how much the county could contribute and whether other funding sources are available. He said he expects the question to come up for a vote in the near future, though not before the elections.

Nissley told the council she started Pathway in Michigan after her daughter went through a drug treatment program. On the night she graduated, the center closed. So Nissley took up the cause at re-opening a treatment center since she knew the need for one existed.

Pathway treats the hard-core drug addicts, the kinds of kids who think about getting high right when they wake up. Unlike institutional programs, Pathway places kids in the homes of mentoring families and slowly reintegrates them back in the community.

She also said that a five-year study found that Pathway has a success rate of 82 percent, which she attributed to the program’s strong family component.

Bob Taylor, head of the Porter County Drug Task Force, told the council that he could always use help in the enforcement end of drugs. But even if the county were to give him $1 million, he couldn’t solve the problem. What’s really needed, he said, is an integrated approach that tackles the causes of substance abuse and helps kids kick their addiction for good. “The whole community has to jump in,” he said.

Nissley noted that Porter County is geographically located between two big drug centers: Chicago and Detroit. And the big-city attitude shows.

“Indy kids are not as advanced drug users as kids from Porter County,” she said, adding that most of the Porter County kids in the Indianapolis program are addicted to heroin.

County Council member Al Steele, R-3rd, noted that there are at least two other agencies in Porter County that deal with substance abuse, Porter Starke Services, Inc. and the Midwest Center for Youth in Kouts. He questioned the possible duplication of efforts.

But Nissley said Pathway is a 12-month program that specializes in substance abuse, while other agencies, such as Porter-Starke, are primarily mental health providers that provide shorter-term programs. She also said that other programs often use an adult model that doesn’t always work with teens.

One council member didn’t hesitant in his endorsement of the program. Jim Burge, R-at large, cited a statistic that 30 Porter County residents have died from heroin overdose. He said he wished the request would have been brought up at the budget hearings for proper planning, but that given its importance, he’s still glad that the council is now considering it.



Posted 9/27/2006