LAPORTE — A 21-year-old man revived from a heroin overdose who ran out of LaPorte Hospital last week, an IV still in his arm, was just one of about a dozen near-death overdoses reported in LaPorte County in the last three weeks.
As EMS workers and emergency room personnel tend to the overdose patients, police are trying to spread the word about a program to help addicts without the fear of being questioned or arrested.
But, so far, just one person has stepped forward to ask for help since the program started three months ago.
LaPorte Police Chief Adam Klimczak is confident more will come once word of mouth and other forms of publicity take deeper root.
Police Assisted Addiction and Recovery Initiative — or PAARI — was developed last year in Massachusetts.
For Indiana, it was first implemented in LaPorte County to enhance what’s already being done to attack the drug problem by lowering demand.
“I’ve said it for a long time, but we’re not going to be able to arrest our way out of this problem,” Klimczak said.
LaPorte recently had its first heroin user go to the police station seeking help.
Angels take the lead
Terry Dilloway, a volunteer “angel” in the program, was successful in late July getting the only person to have stepped forward into a substance abuse treatment facility.
“Angels” also look for ways to pay for treatment, a major factor that keeps many addicts from trying to overcome their addictions.
Some users avoid seeking help because they don’t know where to go or how to obtain those services, Klimczak said.
In this program, people are immediately paired with a volunteer, who leads them through what can be a complicated process.
Even if a user comes in with drugs in their possession, there is no chance for arrest or interrogation.
“I don’t know any heroin addict who wants to be addicted to heroin, but they don’t know where to go to and how to get off it. We’re offering the opportunity to show them what resources are available,” Klimczak said.
Users with criminal charges still pending must have those offenses resolved to receive help.
Drug dealers also are not eligible.
Michigan City police and the LaPorte County Sheriff’s Department also are taking part in the program; no fee is charged for the work of the volunteer.
Police said the man who ran out of the LaPorte Hospital emergency room ran toward nearby railroad tracks but was soon arrested.
A day before the hospital incident, a 25-year-old man received two doses of Narcan before regaining consciousness.
According to LaPorte police, he claimed to have stayed clean for more than six months before giving in to an offer for some heroin at a gas station.
Police on Monday announced they had learned that fentanyl, a powerful painkiller, was being mixed with heroin causing at least six of the recent overdoses. The mixture of the two highly addictive opiates is suspected in each of the cases and could have played a role in a half-dozen other people overdosing during a two-week stretch prior to that, authorities said.
“It’s not just a police problem. It’s a problem for the entire community and any of these addicts we can help get better and on the road to recovery it’s going to make it a better place for the citizens to live,” Klimczak said.