TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (WTHI)- Wednesday’s statewide opioid summit in Indianapolis drew in nearly a thousand attendees. From Vigo County, there were twelve people who attended the historic summit. Many of those serving in the county’s judicial system.
One of was Judge Michael Lewis. He presides over superior court division six. He was one of four county judges who attended the event, all with the goal of helping the state opioid crisis.
"This opioid program is just another tool for us to use. To help people with their drug problems to keep them away from the criminal justice system," said Judge Lewis.
Judge Lewis says one of the biggest take away was from a lecture on the legal implications of addiction. The lecture went into detail about the use of medication-assisted treatments like methadone.
Indiana Supreme Court Justice Loretta H. Rush says the goal is to overall reflect on the responsibilities for criminal justice professionals to better help those in need.
"When you’re involved in the justice system you talk about our constitutional responsibilities for rehabilitation. But now with rehabilitation and consequences and safety is saving lives. People are dying on our caseloads. Dying when they get out of jail," said Chief Justice Rush.
Some of the information might not be new but it’s this enforcement that Judge Lewis hopes to incorporate to help those suffering from opioid addiction.
"It’s just what needs to be done. Locking people up all the time is not the thing. Working with the community, working with leaders to figure out what is best," said Lewis.
Another big session was over a community model called the sequential intercept model. It’s one that requires involvement in all fronts in the community. A step by step system to achieve full recovery of the addict in the end.
"We know criminal justice alright, our sheriffs know their job. When you talk mental health professionals know their jobs. This issue overlaps what we do. They need to understand what we're doing. We need to understand what they’re doing to effectively care for these people," said Chief Justice Rush.
Lewis says that Vigo County is already ahead than some other counties when it comes to this model. Vigo already has a system where law enforcement, judges, and health officials are already working closely together.
Lewis says with finer tuning the system will better help those in need.
"I love it. We all work together. We all work together well so I hope that we're a model for some of the other communities in the state," said Lewis.
Friday News 10 will wrap up the summits with what many health care providers took away, especially what they learned to help those in need of addiction recovery.