Everyone in Porter County knows the drug problem needs to be addressed. The difficulty lies in determining how best to do it.
The county has multiple agencies receiving government funding for addressing substance abuse issues. One of those agencies, the Porter County Substance Abuse Council, has been taking a funding hit after 25 years of helping fight illegal drugs.
The council gives more than $100,000 each year to government and other efforts to fight substance abuse. The money comes from court fees paid by people convicted of alcohol or drug offenses. That money is drying up.
"We would like to have a little more impact into the distribution of funding," Porter Superior Court Judge Roger Bradford said.
Bradford would prefer to direct more of the money to efforts like the Antabuse anti-alcohol program and efforts like GED preparation at the Porter County Jail.
Substance abuse is one of the bigger challenges facing Porter County. Not only does it cause the jail to be crowded, but it also causes an alarmingly high — and growing — number of overdoses each year. And that's not counting the toll on workplace productivity, relationships with family and friends, and more.
Empower Porter County, a recent creation of the Porter County Community Foundation, has been pledged $150,000 annually, through 2015, by the Porter County Board of Commissioners. Valparaiso and Portage contributed $25,000 each for those same three years, 2013 through 2015, for a total each of $75,000.
Heather Harrigan Hitz, who heads this agency, has been working toward cooperation and collaboration, not duplication.
That's good, because it will take everyone working together to make a dent in the county's substance abuse problem.
All interested parties — nonprofits, parents, educators, judges and others in the criminal justice system, as well as commissioners and County Council members — should work together to determine the best approach for addressing the serious substance abuse problems in the county and how the funding for those efforts should be directed.