LAPORTE — The LaPorte community took a giant step Monday on its way to becoming healthier.
The Healthcare Foundation of LaPorte awarded 61 grants totaling more than $2.8 million to 44 organizations during a luncheon at the LaPorte Civic Auditorium.
"This is the first step to achieve an ambitious vision to become one of the healthiest communities in Indiana," said foundation CEO Maria Fruth.
The funds came from the sale of LaPorte Hospital and were received by the foundation in March 2016.
LaPorte County is the 76th healthiest county of Indiana's 92 counties, said Jeff Bernal, foundation board chairman. The foundation's vision is for LaPorte to be ranked in the top 10 healthiest communities in the state by 2030.
"It is all about change, change in our community," said Bernel, adding that the foundation's staff and board are "passionate" to meet the mission.
LaPorte Mayor Mark Krentz praised the group's efforts to move the city toward becoming "a healthier, more vibrant community."
The city received $310,304 in grants for park development and programs; a police anti-drug program and the fire department automatic defibrillator program.
Swanson Center received the largest grant, $663,000 for its Detox Now program, which will allow those in crisis to immediately receive help, despite barriers of not having the finances or insurance to pay for inpatient treatment, said center CEO Matthew Burden.
Burden said his group will partner with Recovery Works in Merrillville to provide inpatient detox services to addicts. The services, thanks to the grant, will be free of charge.
Burden said there are 100 people to 300 people in LaPorte County today in need of the services.
Fruth said the foundation will also fund a three-stage study to be conducted by the Center for Health Policy — Indiana University Richard M. Fairbanks School of Public Health on opioid abuse in LaPorte County. LaPorte County will be the second county in the state to authorize such a study. The study will assess the problem, look at the county's capacity to address opioid abuse and make recommendations to address the problem.