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How Will This End?: La Porte County commissions new report to find solutions

LA PORTE, Ind. – In an effort to answer the question, ‘how will the opioid crisis end?’ community leaders in La Porte County have commissioned a revolutionary report to identify gaps in treatment.

One of those leaders—Toni Mandeville—is a recovering addict herself, and she says she’s experienced these shortfalls firsthand.

Mandeville said she had to rely on herself for recovery.

“I ended up on the floor, laying there, listening to my babies cry in the background, thinking, I’m going to die, and I deserve it, and my babies are going to grow up knowing that their mom was a junkie…It was either let me die right here right now or let me make it out of this, and I was fortunate enough to make it out,” said Mandeville.

A La Porte native, Toni, made it out 26  years ago, but she took the lonely road.

“I didn’t have rehab, I didn’t have detox. I didn’t have 12 step meetings.I didn’t have counseling. I didn’t have a mentor. I didn’t have a support system. I had me. And I don’t suggest anybody go that route, because it’s not easy,” she said.

The Healthcare Foundation of La Porte is hoping to map out all the routes available with a first-of-its kind report.

“So we contracted the Center for Health Policy, which did incredible research and the report on the toll of opioid use on Indiana and Marion County in September of 2016…we decided we really would like to have a study tailored to La Porte County, so that was the decision to use those dollars, step number one,” said the President and CEO of the Healthcare Foundation of La Porte, Maria Fruth.

They’re funneling $78,000 total into the project, which they acquired from the sale of the La Porte Hospital.

“We’re not just going to throw money at the problem was the response we were getting from this new foundation. We’re going to throw money at specifics,” said community partner Jim Musial.

Fruth says this revolutionary report will address specific, albeit complicated issues.

The foundation states the project’s purpose as ‘assess[ing] the burden of opioid addiction in La Porte County and identify[ing] community needs and gaps in providing adequate treatment services.

“For 27 years, different organizations in this town have run different programs, but we seem to put out one fire and another one ignites down the street,” said Musial, who has been involved with many of those programs in the past few decades.

“When I was actively using, opioids, heroin, it was around, but it wasn’t that big. We were the outsiders. We were the ones that everybody whispered about, whereas now it’s in your face. It’s in our streets. It’s in our schools, it’s in our shopping malls. It’s everywhere,” said Mandeville.

“Assess[ing] the magnitude of opioid abuse and consequences in La Porte County” is the goal of phase one.

“Getting accurate data is the key component to all of this. Knowing what we’re dealing with,” said Musial.

That’s where Center for Health Policy Research Analyst Marion Greene comes in.

“There are quite a bit of data that are already available, secondary data sources that kind of point to toward the problems and consequences of opioid addiction here within our state, and there’s some information specifically at the county level,” said Greene.

Greene’s team collected data from sources like La Porte County EMS.

The assistant director said they’ve recorded 136 non-fatal overdoses so far this year.

“When I was making the rounds and calling around…I was like whack-a-mole, I was going from one organization to another, and it was very difficult to get anyone to tell me how many people died from heroin overdoses last year,” said Musial.

That’s why they’re bringing in the experts—Marion’s team—to sort through all the sources available.

“It’s information gathering followed by a second phase, which is going to be for determining what capacity we have in this county to deal with this issue based on these statistics,” said Musial.

“We have Swanson Center that offers counseling, intensive outpatient treatment, [and] we have 12-step programs,” said Mandeville.

“The big issues I’m seeing here right now that I deal with are trying to find available beds in facilities, and if you find an available bed, is it private funded, because if so, well then you need insurance or you need a hefty bank account to pay for it. If they’re state-funded, then the waiting lists are pretty extensive,” she said.

“[Then,] you lose that moment of opportunity where an addict sincerely says with all due intent I’m ready to get help,” said Musial.

“That’s huge, and we have to jump on that opportunity, we have to seize that moment, because, I have watched what happens when we tell them you have to wait. Because sometimes when we tell them that you have to wait, we’re too late,” said Mandeville.

La Porte community leaders are tired of being too late.

They’re hoping this report enables them to take action as soon as they hear that cry for help.

“And then the third phase is draft recommendations for a strategic plan,” said Fruth.

“So we’re going to have this tool where we’re going to be able to go out and get more money and more resources, but it’s going to give us a very specific target… It’s also going to be very flexible and workable across the community for everyone involved. It’s the real deal,” said Musial.

“I think that is a pretty new approach,” said Greene.

“At this point, I think there are still more questions than there are answers, but we’re trying,” said Mandeville.

They’re ultimately trying to answer one simple yet colossal question: ‘how will it end?’

“How will it end? Okay, I wish I had a magic wand, but the hope is that we can address the issue by reducing prescriptions that are unnecessary. I hope that we can do a lot of prevention, a lot of education to demonstrate that this is not a good way to live or to die, let’s put it that way, and I hope that we can solve this issue,” said Fruth.

“This will end when every component of our country comes together. We have to have public and private partnerships, better public and private partnerships, not driven by what the political agenda is at that time, but driven on what the real problem is and what the real solutions are,” said Musial.

“I don’t know how it’s going to end, but if we don’t start doing more than what we’re doing now, I can tell you how it’s going to end for a lot of people, and it’s only going to spread…but we’re trying. I want to give a big high five to La Porte County for the steps that have been taken over the last couple of years to really aggressively start trying to figure out how, where, when, what can we do? How can we make a difference?” said Mandeville

The final report will be released on March 31, 2018.

Toni says folks often ask addicts what it feels like to be trapped in their addiction.

To hear her analogy, click here to see the latest Addicted America RAW.

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