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Lack of treatment options adds to challenge

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Indiana lawmakers and law enforcement officers meeting in Noblesville this summer agreed on a three-pronged approach to address what they believe is a heroin abuse crisis in many Indiana communities:

More antidrug education initiatives.

Tougher sentencing minimums for drug dealers.

Increased funding for treatment.

While the first two goals can be achieved through legislative means or existing channels, finding the money to provide adequate treatment for heroin addicts is another matter.

“Many want to quit, but they have no insurance,” Columbus Police Department Lt. Matt Myers said. “There is also no inpatient treatment available locally for either methamphetamine or heroin addiction.”

Medical service at the Bartholomew County Jail, which is contracted out to a private company, includes two nurses who work with physicians to provide incarcerated drug and alcohol addicts the care they need to minimize health risks, said Maj. Todd Noblitt, chief deputy of the Bartholomew Count Sheriff’s Department.

“We are legally and morally obligated to address their needs,” Noblitt said.

The symptoms and demands of heroin addiction, as well as the lack of affordable or viable options, are far worse than being in jail, Myers said.

He said local officers make contact with heroin users during welfare checks, rather than while investigating crimes.

“When they try to get off the stuff, they can become deathly sick and find they have no support to help them,” Myers said.

Columbus Regional Hospital statistics show 81 percent of the 518 patients treated for some form of opioid use since 2009 were sent home.

For those with financial resources, skilled nursing facilities (4.4 percent) and home health care (3.8 percent) were the most popular options following their hospital stay, according to the hospital.

But only three patients (0.58 percent) were sent from Columbus Regional to a drug rehabilitation facility over that 5½-year period.

Five people have died from heroin-related complications while at the Columbus hospital since 2009, according to the hospital.

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