VALPARAISO | After nine months of speaking to hundreds of people in the community and studying the numbers on drug-related issues, leaders in Porter County heard about three initiatives to help improve those statistics during an update meeting at Valparaiso University on Wednesday night.
EMPOWER Porter County, an organization that seeks strategies to prevent and reduce substance abuse throughout Porter County, unveiled the findings of their efforts. Executive Director Heather Harrigan said many sectors of the community were involved.
“We talked with educators, social workers, behavioral health specialists, medical health practitioners, the business community, youth, and parents and we are still in the conversation and will continue to be,” Harrigan said.
Three initiatives were unveiled at the meeting.
“It’s not so much about the food as it is about the conversation,” Harrigan said of the Around the Table initiative, which seeks to educate families on the importance of eating meals together.
“Families can be defined in traditional ways, or groups just coming together, like senior citizens or college students, to get together and talk to each other so there is not such a separation of individuals,” she said.
The Rx Guardians initiative seeks to better assess pain and pain management with caretakers in the community to prevent the overprescription of opiates and medications for ADHD like Ritalin and Adirol, “which have become gateway drugs instead of yesterday’s cigarettes and alcohol.”
The Holistic Approach to Healthcare initiative seeks to integrate mental and physical health, and all three initiatives will be implemented by EMPOWER through working with groups, businesses, schools, and individuals in the county.
Larry Baas, director of CRSC Research Associates, discussed the data that was collected and analyzed as a part of the process, including numbers from alcohol, tobacco, and drug student surveys, Porter County Sherriff’s arrest data, coroner’s reports, FBI crime statistics, hospital discharge data, juvenile and adult probation information, and other reports and he said he would release statistical information at a later date.
Randi Alter, a research associate at Indiana Prevention Resource Center in Bloomington, also spoke about prevention and the risk factors that lead people to substance abuse.
“Substance abuse in the single most important reason people go to jail, it impacts public health and safety and affects virtually every family in Porter County,” said Porter County Sheriff David Lain.
County Council member Jim Biggs said, “Substance abuse affects the largest portion of our jail population and we have all seen over the past year the problems we have had in funding and staffing our jail so it affects us all.”