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Porter County Sheriff's Department Overdose Response Team Ride-along

Chris Winterhaler, Porter County Sheriff's Department Overdose Response Team officer, displays naloxone nasal spray last fall. The overdose-reversal drug saves dozens of lives each year in the Region. Treatment professionals are now going to be responding to drug overdoses in LaPorte.

Treatment professionals will visit the homes of drug overdose victims in LaPorte beginning Monday.

The so-called Quick Response Teams will consist of a recovery coach, a LaPorte police officer and a medic from the LaPorte Fire Department. They will go to the overdose victim's residence, upon consent, within 72 hours of the incident, to help the individual get into detox, residential or outpatient treatment.

"There's a short window for this. This really meets someone where they're at and gets people at a place where they're willing to hopefully be open and listen to the folks that show up," said Allen Grecula, director of clinical operations for Frontline Foundations, a treatment center in LaPorte and Chesterton that is helping operate the program.

Like the nation as a whole, the Region had a record number of drug overdose deaths in 2017, many of them from opioids like heroin and fentanyl. LaPorte has the highest per-capita rate of drug overdose deaths of any community in Northwest Indiana.

Recovery coaches are treatment professionals who are themselves recovering from addiction.

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"For someone to be in that position where they just overdosed, a lot of times they feel hopeless," Grecula said. "What Quick Response Teams and recovery coaches are going to do is say, 'Hey, I get it. I've been there. This is where I'm at now, and this doesn't have to be the end of your story.'"

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The grant for the program came from the state of Indiana, as part of the 21st Century Cures Act, a federal law to attack the opioid crisis.

Quick Response Teams started in northern Ohio in 2014 before expanding to Indiana and several other states. Officials say the initiative has been successful in both getting more people into treatment and reducing overdoses.

Grecula said he also hopes it can improve the relationship between people struggling with substance use and public safety officers.

"Some of the folks that are in the midst of addiction might think (police and firefighters are) out to get them," he said. "They're there to help in fighting this opioid crisis."

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Health Reporter

Giles is the health reporter for The Times, covering the business of health care as well as consumer and public health. He previously wrote about health for the Lawrence (Kansas) Journal-World. He is a graduate of Northern Illinois University.