VALPARAISO — Porter County is on pace to break a record this year and it's nothing to brag about.
Porter County Coroner Chuck Harris told a group of law enforcement officers last week that 2016 will be a record year for heroin overdoses, opiate overdoses and total overdoses.
"In 2015 we recorded 16, which was a high, and I know we have already surpassed that number," Harris said.
But at least 33 lives were saved this year from overdoses. Twenty-eight police officers from six Porter County departments administered Narcan in 2016, saving a life.
Those 28 were recognized with a newly created Phoenix award, representing the rising from near death, Harris said, at the annual Porter County Drunk Driving Task Force's and Porter County Substance Abuse Council's banquet.
Traditionally, officers who make significant arrests for driving under the influence are recognized. This year the Phoenix award was added to recognize officers' efforts in saving lives from drug overdoses.
During the year, police made 1,044 drunken driving arrests.
They were thanked by Gina Pike, of Valparaiso, a recovering alcoholic who was arrested three times for drunken driving and who has now been sober for about five years.
"Thank you for pulling me over," she told the officers.
"I thank them every day. I could have hurt someone, killed someone," she said, adding she wasn't pleasant to police when she was arrested.
Aaron Miersma, a five-year veteran of the Chesterton Police Department, received the award for making the most arrests for driving under the influence in 2016. He arrested 38 people. It was the fourth time Miersma received the award.
"It has always been a passion of mine, and I always try to be proactive. It's not just a numbers thing, it is the satisfaction of taking someone off the street who has been drinking and keeping the community safe," said Miersma.
Tim Lucas. of the Burns Harbor Police Department, came in second with 32 arrests. Tim Bell and Dan Alonzo, both of the Porter County Sheriff's Department, tied for third with 28 arrests.