Northwest Indiana, like everywhere else, needs to put more focus on drug abuse treatment, not just incarceration.
No one knows this more than Sharon Mortenson of the PACT criminal justice program. Eight years ago, she had trouble finding a drug rehabilitation center for her 13-year-old son.
"For adults, there are definitely a lot more resources available," said Amanda Morrison, coordinator of the Lake County Substance Abuse Council.
Morrison could name only two facilities for young people in Northwest Indiana.
Beatrice Owen, director of the Porter County Substance Abuse Council, said the area also lacks a detox facility for young people.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse said the shortage of facilities is a problem nationally as well.
In 2012, the agency said 8.9 percent of Americans needed treatment for a problem related to drugs or alcohol, but only 1 percent received treatment at a specialized facility.
Getting young people the help they need is difficult. They don't see the consequences of their drug or alcohol use, said Brenda Comer, a therapist at the Crisis Center Alternative House in Gary.
That brings up an additional need — investing wisely in drug prevention efforts.
Despite the anti-drug education efforts in local schools, drug abuse is rampant.
Lake County Coroner Merrilee Frey said her office certified 65 drug overdose deaths last year, a big increase over the 48 drug fatal overdoses in 2012.
"These numbers are alarming, and if we continue at the rate we are going this year, we will surpass that total again," Frey said.
And it's only March.
And those overdoses aren't counting all the lives destroyed by drugs — the families wrenched apart by drug abuse, the jobs lost, the homes lost, the opportunities lost.
The fight against drug abuse includes continual monitoring to gauge the extent of the problem.
But invest additional money and effort into determining what prevention programs work best. Despite all the effort devoted to drug prevention in the schools, drug abuse is an epidemic in the region.
It's essential that this problem finally be brought under control.