Opioid forum highlights decrease in overdose deaths and need for treatment in St. Joseph County

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — On Wednesday, an opioid symposium at Indiana University at South Bend highlighted a decreased in overdose deaths, but a need for more treatment in St. Joseph County. 

It was standing room only at IUSB for the public forum called ’The Opioid Epidemic in Michiana.’ The purpose of the event, hosted by the American Democracy Project and IUSB’s MPA Program, was to promote awareness and community engagement regarding the opioid crisis. 

The forum started with a panel of law enforcement officials, health care providers, and advocates for those struggling with addiction. The packed crowd asked questions and the panelists gave them the ugly truth about the opioid situation in the county. 

“I’m not saying there are fewer addicts,” Ken Cotter, St. Joseph County Prosecutor. “What I’m saying is there are fewer people dying from that addiction.”

Cotter gave the crowd an update on overdose deaths in the county. According to him, by April 2018 there were 15 overdose deaths. 

Since the start of 2019 to April, Cotter said there have been 2 overdose deaths reported in the county. He said there’s not one single reason for this decrease. 

“We’re recognizing there is a problem and so we’re having fewer people die from it,” he said. 

An official with the county’s Department of Health said numbers do show an increase. However, to get a clearer picture of the opioid problem, the department pays more attention to the number of overdose patients going to the emergency room. 

“I always get asked what we can do to help,” said Becky Savage, who has been affected by the opioid epidemic. 

Savage has been raising awareness about the opioid epidemic since her two sons died of an accidental overdose involving opioids nearly four years ago. Click here for more information on her 525 Foundation. 

She was at Wednesday’s symposium and said there is positive progress happening in the county. She also said there is compassion in the community for people struggling with addiction. 

“There are a lot of people that are compassionate about helping,” Savage said. “It’s not always about getting people in trouble, it’s about getting people help.”

Something the panelists agreed on tonight is that there is a need for state-funded in-patient treatment centers in St. Joseph County. Brandon Adolf is the executive director for CHOICES Recovery in South Bend, which generally serves clients who have access to private insurance companies. 

The St. Joseph County Department of Health provided a full list of substance abuse care providers in the area: 

1. Victory Clinic

2. Life Treatment Center

3. Upper Room Recovery Community, Inc. 

4. Oaklawn 

5. CHOICES Recovery

6. Oxford House

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