Event to reveal extent of Porter County drug problem

A public event Wednesday in Valparaiso will reveal the extent of Porter County’s youth drug problem.

Jonathan Miano, Times file photo

VALPARAISO — A public event will be held Wednesday to announce the findings of research into Porter County’s substance abuse problem.

EMPOWER Porter County and the Institute for Social and Policy Research at Purdue University Northwest in Hammond will unveil a set of reports that measure the extent of the community’s alcohol, tobacco and drug use.

“Unfortunately, Porter County has a heavier substance abuse problem, particularly heavier alcohol abuse, than does the rest of the state,” said Barb Young, president emeritus of the Porter County Community Foundation, which sponsored the research.

“The more we understand the actual data, that gives us a better understanding of the scope of the problem, which will help us better understand how to address it.”

Porter County has rates of excessive drinking, alcohol-impaired driving deaths and drug overdoses that are higher than the state average, according to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

The six reports, based on data from the 2015 Indiana Youth Survey, will focus on risk factors, protective factors, mental health and gambling, alcohol, tobacco and marijuana and other drugs.

“Substance abuse is a shared problem, and it will take all of us working together in the community to understand the challenges and seek solutions,” said Becky Stankowski, director of the Institute for Social and Policy Research at Purdue University Northwest.

“We believe the place to start is to understand the extent to which the problem currently exists.”

In addition, Empowered Teens, a collaboration of professors from Ivy Tech Community College and Porter County high school students, will present the results of teen focus groups examining the reasons kids do or don’t participate in positive extracurricular activities.

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Giles is the health reporter for The Times, covering the business of health care as well as consumer and public health. He previously wrote about health for the Lawrence (Kansas) Journal-World. He is a graduate of Northern Illinois University.