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Porter County Jail

Porter County Jail.

Steve Meyer, Porter County adult probation chief officer, is among 61 county officials from across the state calling on Medicaid officials to reconsider coverage of the sublingual film version of the drug Suboxone, which has posed a contraband problem at jails and prisons.

The group is hoping to win backing for the change from the Indiana Family & Social Services Administration Therapeutics Committee, which is meeting Friday morning.

The tiny, paper-thin version of Suboxone is particularly easy to sneak into jails and prisons between people and through the mail as it can be hidden under stamps and in book bindings, according to a letter the group wrote to the director of the state's Medicaid program.

The Suboxone sheets also can be liquefied and added to nearly any material to become undetectable.

"To address this influx we have had to deploy precious manpower and resources to oversee our mail operations and tighten security around visitations — further stretching our limited resources," the letter states.

Suboxone is a drug used to treat opiate addiction. The sheets are similar in appearance to the Listerine-brand breath strips.

According to the group's understanding, Medicaid buys millions of dollars of the sublingual drug each year. The demographics of the inmates and their families suggest that many are Medicaid eligible, "which could be a key source in the rising level of film contraband we are experiencing," the letter states.

Medicaid officials are called upon to consider limiting the drug to formulations that are not as prone to become contraband.

"Please know we did not experience high contraband issues with buprenorphine prior to the release of the Suboxone film in Indiana," according to the letter.

The Porter County Sheriff's Department said it recently broke up a smuggling effort involving the film, which was selling for $100 each.

William Merriweather Jr., 46, of South Bend, faces a felony count of dealing a controlled substance.

Aaron Myers, 36, and Randall Madaras, 26, both with addresses of the jail, are charged with a felony count of aiding in the dealing of a controlled substance, according to court records.

LaPorte resident Amber Malstaff, 32, was charged in December with a felony count of trafficking with an inmate based on allegations of attempting to smuggle the sublingual drug into the county jail by hiding it within the binding of a book.

The Westville Correctional Facility reported that it had caught the mother of one of its inmates attempting to smuggle the same form of Suboxone into the prison Jan. 14.

Polly Smart, of Huntington, Indiana, was caught with 50 small strips believed to be Suboxone in sealed packages, officials said. She faces felony counts of attempted trafficking with an inmate and possession of Suboxone.

The Lake County Jail employs two full-time officers to screen incoming and outgoing mail and has not had a problem with Suboxone, sheriff's department spokesman Mark Back said.

A spokesman for the LaPorte County Jail could not be reached to comment on whether officials there have discovered problems with the drug.

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Porter/LaPorte County Courts and Social Justice Reporter

Bob is a 23-year veteran of The Times. He covers county government and courts in Porter County, federal courts, police news and regional issues. He also created the Vegan in the Region blog, is an Indiana University grad and lifelong region resident.