Starke Co. working to improve stats that show highest overdose death rate

KNOX, Ind. -- A recent report reveals staggering statistics related to the opioid crisis in Starke County. Now, the sheriff is working to figure out how to stop the constant increase in overdoses.

Just last Sunday, the sheriff says there was another suspected overdose.

In the past three years in particular, he says there has been a continuous increase in the drug problem in their county.

The sheriff reports they've had 432 felony drug arrests, 1,339 drug raids or search warrants, and 2,957 total drug arrests in that time period.

“The one that really popped out is Starke County leads the state in per capita in overdose deaths, which we had 22, and that was last year. Right now, we are at 13 right now, and we have 33 overdose calls this year," said Starke County Sheriff Bill Dulin.

Here's a comparison of overdose deaths per capita in neighboring Indiana counties:

Elkhart: 0.03%

Fulton: 0.05%

Kosciusko: 0.02%

Marshall: 0.03%

Pulaski: 0.09%

St. Joseph: 0.05%

Starke: 0.10%

"We’re investing all this time and effort into rehabilitating them, and then we’re putting them out with no skills to re-socialize back into the community," said Sheriff Dulin.

Plus, the cells are filling up fast.

He says the jail nears capacity daily and 85% of their current inmates are in on drug charges.

Many have to wait up to eight months in jail before they're sentenced.

“It costs the taxpayers  money, because each day they’re in here is $50 to $55 a day, because we maintain their food, and their medical care, and their prescriptions," said Sheriff Dulin.

In 2017, he said that total exceeded $100,000.

Some inmates said at least the extra time they're spending is worthwhile from the classes the jail offers to other upcoming projects like this weekend's farmer's market.

“It’s a constant battle. Makes me want to try harder. Makes the officers want to try harder...and we’re not willing to give up on it yet," said Sheriff Dulin.

The sheriff said he contacted state representatives in an effort to enact legislation statewide that would mandate courts hand down sentences to non-violent offenders in 45 to 90 days i.e. the "rocket docket."

In Knox, the sheriff and warden hope to implement a re-entry program in the next two years that would give inmates a chance to work at a local business while they finish out the last 90 days of their sentences at the jail.

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