Enhanced collective effort needed to beat heroin abuse

A third overdose death within a week’s time, suspected to be heroin like the others, highlighted what has been a growing problem in the past few years: heroin abuse.

The tragic week was an eye-opener for many Bartholomew County residents, yet professionals working in the social services system have long been battling the impacts of heroin. Child abuse cases locally have increased eightfold in the past decade, with heroin the biggest contributor, for example.

Local law enforcement agencies took an important step in fighting heroin with the creation of the Joint Narcotics Task Force last year. Now, the federal Drug Enforcement Agency is enhancing its relationship with city police and the county sheriff’s department.

When Mayor Jim Lienhoop was running for office, he said addressing growing drug abuse would be among his top priorities. Following through on his word, he and Sheriff Matt Myers met with the federal Drug Enforcement Agency’s assistant special agent in Indiana to begin forging a stronger relationship.

Having the DEA and local police working in tandem increases the odds of stanching the flow of heroin into the county and reducing overdose deaths.

While stepped-up police investigation efforts are important, as this is the best way to put drug dealers behind bars, it’s just one piece of what must be a multi-faceted approach and long-term plan.

The need for expanded recovery programs for drug and alcohol offenses is serious. Without proper treatment, repeated imprisonment won’t cure an addict’s addiction.

Heroin abuse in the county isn’t likely to go away quickly. It will take a concerted effort to win the fight. Adding the DEA to the fold it is a good step, but more helping hands and initiatives will be needed to overcome this growing community problem.