LAPORTE | It's now up to the LaPorte judicial system to decide whether to consider bringing a faith-based substance abuse treatment clinic to address the heroin problem in the county.
About 40 people turned out for a presentation Wednesday night about Frontline Foundations, which started in 2007 to combat a heroin problem in Porter County and has treatment centers in Valparaiso and Chesterton.
Amber Hensell-Hicks, executive director of the not-for-profit organization, said clinical and biblical components along with therapy in groups of people who can relate to each other are key ingredients in their success.
She said about 40 percent of their clients relapse within the first year after completing 12 weeks of outpatient treatment compared to a 60 percent national average.
But, after 90 days after completion of treatment, 76-percent of the client reported no drug usage while 23 percent reported decreased use.
"We're a people of faith and we believe it makes a difference," said Hensell-Hicks.
Her son, Alan Grecula, is director of clinical services. He helped his mother start the organization who after a conviction for cocaine possession.
"God worked miracles with him," said Hensell-Hicks.
She said clients pay on the average $6 per session, but if they don't have any money, the services are provided at no cost.
Fees last year covered $65,000 of the operating expenses for the clinics while the remainder of the costs were covered by $40,000 in grants along with nearly $100,000 from fundraisers and $87,000 in donated labor.
That's why the key to bringing Frontline Foundations to LaPorte is enough community support, especially from judges who can direct those with substance abuse issues to the center.
She said LaPorte has a major need for another treatment clinic because there aren't enough presently.
LaPorte County Prosecutor Bob Szilagyi said one possible funding source is a line item in his budget funded with fines and other fees from offenders.
He will discuss the idea with the judges and see where it goes.
"This may be another approach of having something else in there. Anything to tackle the problem. We'll see what we want to do," said Szilagyi.
LaPorte County police Deputy Marvin McCoy said he notices firsthand students impacted directly or indirectly by heroin as a liason officer at LaPorte High School.
The idea of having a branch of the clinic in LaPorte would be "absolutely a good thing," McCoy said.
The presentation was held at Bethany Lutheran Church, which approached Hensell-Hicks about opening a clinic here.
"It's a great town and we want it to be even better," said pastor Dennis Meyer.
There were 261 fatal overdoses mostly from heroin in Porter County from 2008 to 2012 and 29 overdose deaths in 2013, said Hensell-Hicks.
LaPorte County had 30 overdose deaths mostly from heroin in 2011, a 56 percent increase from the previous three years, she said.