VIGO COUNTY, Ind. (WTHI) - National leaders are making their voices heard on how to best fight the opioid epidemic. On average, there are four opioid-related overdoses every week in Vigo County.
That's according to the Vigo County Prosecutor's office. That's more than 200 overdoses every single year, but the epidemic sprawls beyond county lines. "We cannot win the war on drugs just by locking people up," Vigo County Prosecutor Terre Modesitt said.
The National Judicial Opioid Task Force (NJOTF) released a comprehensive report on Wednesday afternoon. It details why state courts are crucial partners in kicking the opioid addiction crisis.
Modesitt says everyone is aware of the ongoing opioid epidemic in Vigo County and that county leaders have been having ongoing discussions about how to curb the crisis.
In this new report, NJOTF laid out how judges and the legal system are crucial in reversing the opioid epidemic. It details how judges should advocate for the availability of quality treatment centers for those addicted yet in trouble. Modesitt says that Vigo County has done this and been ahead of the game. He says his office is very proactive in supporting treatment groups and facilities locally. They also regularly recommend people to treatment rather than just locking them up.
Hamilton Center officials agree, but Modesitt says "we as a community" have to do even more. "It is a very important relationship that we have with one another," the Hamilton Center's Chief Officer of Health Clinics and Opioid Treatment Programs D.J. Rhodes said, "We are working together as a community for the patient."
"There's going to have to be more treatment programs put in place," Prosecutor Modesitt said, "There's going to have to be more funding available to really tackle this problem."
Modesitt says Vigo County is one of the most progressive counties in the state when it comes to getting people treatment, but he wants to see even more done. He says Vigo County is on par with and even ahead of what the NJOTF report says and the intention of the report is a step Vigo County is already taking.
He says the problem is the incredibly large numbers of opioid-related overdoses in the Wabash Valley and the number of legal cases and jury trials are already overwhelming for the manpower of the prosecutor's office. On top of that, he believes there aren't enough treatment facilities in our area to combat the epidemic. Finally, the jail is also overcrowded.
Overall, Modesitt says we as a community can do more to help fight this epidemic. "We cannot attack it the same way it was attacked when the problems first arose," he concluded, "I think there's going to have to be more education, more treatment facilities, and we're going to have to be willing to give people more chances as long as they are willing to help themselves and get in the treatment facilities."
The prosecutor said the number one roadblock right now is financing. While this report is a step in the right direction, he would like to see an annual financial commitment to figure out these problems and more importantly, get those who need help the help they need.