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VALPARAISO | As momentum builds in support of helping Pathway Family Center open a teen drug treatment center here as soon as August, county officials are considering giving public funds to the effort.

"I think we're all of the mind we must do something and it's going to take a contribution by the county," Porter County Council President Dan Whitten said Wednesday morning.

No definite amount of money has been agreed to, but Whitten said a contribution of up to $200,000 has been discussed.

The most likely source for that kind of money would be the county economic development income tax, which would require approval by both the County Council and commissioners, Whitten said.

Porter County Commissioner Bob Harper, who attended an informational forum on Pathway on Tuesday night, said he asked for a meeting with Pathway officials to discuss the issue of funding.

He said there are no limits on the CEDIT funding that would stop the revenue from being contributed to Pathway.

"I believe these people are sincere," Harper said, dismissing concerns Pathway is similar to abusive treatment programs of the past.

Porter County Council member Bob Poparad also attended this week's forum on the Pathway proposal. He said he has more research to do before making up his mind on the issue.

Pathway Chief Executive Officer Terri Nissley said Pathway needs a little more than $1 million to set up shop in Porter County.

The group has raised some of the funding, helped by a $100,000 pledge from the local Community Action Drug Coalition. The remaining balance is $540,000, including $200,000, which is needed before a local staff can be hired, she said.

The group will be relying heavily on fundraising and grants, Nissley said.

The plan is to locate the new center in Valparaiso with a staff of between 18 and 20 people, she said. An exact location has not been determined.

Whitten defended the proposed contribution as appropriate, considering the county's responsibility to fund operations at the jail. An investment in treatment is cheaper than housing someone at the jail, he said.

"This is an alternative budgeting method in my opinion," he said.

As far as the county's financial struggles, Whitten said a one-time contribution like this is different than funding ongoing costs such as raises and new county employees.

Whitten said he expects the proposed contribution to surface before the council in the near future.