Heroin and opioid abuse is nearing crisis proportions in Montgomery County.
Emergency and law enforcement personnel are seeing the increase of abuse, and it even became a topic in local politics during the last election. The worst statistic is the number of heroin overdoses and deaths that are occurring on a regular basis all over the county.
Heroin is classified as an opioid. Opioids also include powerful legal pain relievers such as Hydrocodone, Morphine and Fentanyl. Taken in large quantities, these drugs produce a feeling of euphoria. All opioids can lead to a fatal overdose.
Darren Foreman is a Crawfordsville Fire Department paramedic and the Montgomery County Coroner. He has served the community since 1993. He believes there is good reason for the community to be alarmed. Foreman said two years ago the number of heroine overdoses numbered one or two per week. He said now local emergency management personnel see up to five cases per week on the average. When a bad batch of heroin is an area, he said it is not unusual to have up to 10 overdoses in a week.
“I believe we are nearing a crisis in heroin abuse,” Foreman said. “Unless the person dies, I only see the cases my shift deals with. Right now, it seems to be the drug of choice with a lot of people.”
The old belief that drug abuse is found only in certain socio-economic classes is false, Foreman said. He has attended to overdose cases that vary across the socio-economic spectrum — from the poorest to the most affluent, heroin abuse is not selective. Every age group includes heroin addicts. As coroner, Foreman has been called to homes of residents in their 60’s to younger teenagers.
“The abuse is bridging all age groups,” Foreman said. “It seems to be playing out that heroin addiction is worse then being addicted to meth.”
These ramifications of this abuse can be seen in the local emergency room as well as increasing costs to law enforcement agencies. The legal system also is impacted, which means more tax dollars are needed at every level.
The Montgomery County Health Department has launched an educational campaign. Through the Montgomery County Drug Task Force, the health department is working to inform residents about how heroin affects so many families and individuals.
Within the last week, a new billboard was placed along East Wabash Avenue. It proclaims the county is ranked ninth out of 92 Indiana counties in its residents being at risk for opioid abuse. The billboard is more than a sign to the health department and emergency personnel. It represents the new battle about to take place to stop the problem of heroin and opioid abuse.
Samantha Swearingen is the health education director at the local health department. She is a member of the drug task force and is working with several agencies to help educate the public about the current crisis.
“Our goal is to first raise public awareness about the opioid problem including the rise of heroin abuse,” Swearingen said. “From our prospective as a health department, we know heroin is our main problem because. It is less expensive and easy to obtain on Crawfordsville streets. We are seeing less prescription opioid abuse, but the heroin abuse is growing.”