La Porte nonprofit releases opioid report

NOW: La Porte nonprofit releases opioid report

WESTVILLE, Ind. - The Healthcare Foundation of La Porte released a report Thursday detailing how the opioid epidemic has impacted La Porte County. 

The foundation commissioned the study last year from IUPUI's Center for Health Policy.

Researchers presented their findings to a packed house at Purdue Northwest Thursday morning.

The Secretary for Indiana's Families and Social Services Administration presented first, sharing the most up-to-date statistics available for the state.

One trend she shared showed that death by opioid abuse increased by more than 1,000% since 1999, as a leading cause of death, overtaking motor vehicle accidents.

La Porte County is just mirroring the trend across the state and country.

“It is a crisis, so to address everything at the same time is almost, you know, it’s overwhelming," said Maria Fruth, President and CEO of the Healthcare Foundation of La Porte.

Now, the Healthcare Foundation of La Porte has what researchers from the Center for Health Policy believe is the most important tool to drive change in their county.

“I and my colleagues are big believers in data and evidence-based decision-making and data-driven decisions, and the idea of you can only improve what you measure, and so this idea of trying to understand what is already going on in the county, what the scope and scale of the problem is, ...that all has to be figured out and addressed and understood before you can even begin to start planning and kind of making those very strategic decisions," said Dr. Joshua Vest, the Director of the Center for Health Policy.

One number worth pointing out is that opioid misuse in La Porte has nearly doubled since 2010, increasing from 24% in 2010 to 2017 in 56.9%, based on those admitted to treatment.

“And also I think the finding of injection drug use is really concerning, because that brings with it so many other consequences that just contribute to the problem and make it so much worse," said Policy Analyst, Harold Kooreman.

One consequence the state saw between 2006 and 2012 is an increase in Hepatitis C infections.

La Porte is also seeing a deficit in treatment options according to the study.

Analysts report that La Porte is home to five counseling centers, but to detox, patients have to drive about 40 miles away to Merrillville.

The closest medication-assisted treatment center is in Gary.

Still, researchers admit working solely with publicly-available data inevitably leaves holes.

“A lot of it is getting up-to-date information, so that’s a big gap, because if you noticed on some of the data sets, like on our crime data set, it goes up to 2014, and a lot’s happened in the last two-and-a-half years," said Kooreman.

Even with La Porte following the gloomy trend, it emerged as unique in a pretty positive way.

“It was really refreshing to see representatives from healthcare, law enforcement, from government, from the courts, from social services, everybody was interested in saying we need to work together and we need to collaborate, and we need to address this problem," said Dr. Vest.

The Healthcare Foundation of La Porte's board will be meeting next week to discuss their role in the community.

For the full report, click here.

To see the originally Addicted America story detailing their intentions for the report, click here.

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