Porter County Sheriff's Department

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Roosevelt University Drug report

January 25, 2005

The Roosevelt University Drug

report released during seminar at the

Porter County Sheriff's Department.







Report shows dramatic rise in heroin use

VALPARAISO: Commissioned study focuses on Porter County
This story ran on nwitimes.com on Tuesday, January 25, 2005 12:30 AM CST

VALPARAISO | The heroin-related death rate in Porter County in 2002 ranked among the top 10 in the nation when compared to major metropolitan areas, according to a study being released today.
The rate of heroin-related emergency room visits by 18- to 25-year-olds ranked third in the nation, behind only Baltimore and Philadelphia metropolitan areas, the study showed.

Commissioned by Porter-Starke Services and the Community Action Drug Coalition in Porter County, the study prepared by Roosevelt University in Chicago states the heroin-related death rate in Porter County for people of all ages was 10th in the nation on a per capita basis during 2002. Places such as the New Orleans, Baltimore and Las Vegas metropolitan areas ranked higher, but Porter County outpaced death rates in areas such as New York, Boston and Chicago.
"It doesn't surprise me," said 25-year-old Justin Conover, of Valparaiso, who is in Porter County Jail because of a heroin-related theft.
Conover said he knows more than 20 people who have died of overdoses, AIDS and murder because of heroin.
The study was commissioned in order to seek grant money to combat heroin use.
While the actual number of deaths fall far behind these metropolitan areas, the rankings were calculated based on the number of deaths per 100,000 residents. Porter County has a population of about 152,500 people, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
"I knew we had a significant problem, but when we got compared nationwide, it astounded me," said Valparaiso physician Mann Spitler, whose daughter died of a heroin overdose in March 2002 and is active with the coalition. "I felt that the report verified a gut feeling I had about the pervasiveness of the problem."
"Things are just getting worse for us here. ... I've been saying that for a long time," added Porter County Drug Task Force Coordinator Robert Taylor.
"Once again, I think we need to start looking at drug courts ... looking at education programs starting in the fourth grade and looking at (increasing options for) rehabilitation."
The Roosevelt University report makes similar recommendations. The report will be released in its entirety during a seminar from 8 a.m. to noon today at the Porter County Sheriff's Department.
Kathleen Kane-Willis, assistant director of Roosevelt University's Institute for Metropolitan Affairs, said the study's results shouldn't cause alarm or fear, but rather should be used to re-examine drug education and policy.
"If you don't address the problem quickly, it will spread quickly and for a long time," Kane-Willis said.
Conover agreed, saying "a few people found a lot of joy in it and spread it to other people."
Although Roosevelt was paid $2,000 to conduct the study, Kane-Willis said it ended up costing $10,000 to do -- a cost that was not passed along to the Porter County organizations. Although the numbers were not adjusted for population growth in Porter County and the Porter County data came from different sources than the national data, Kane-Willis believes the study's results are still valid.
According to the Roosevelt University study:
-- 18 people died of drug-related causes in Porter County in 2003, compared to 15 in 2002 and eight in 2001.
-- Arrests for heroin-related crimes in Porter County increased from 10 in 2002 to 84 in 2004. At the same time, the number of Porter County residents arrested for heroin use in Chicago's Cook County also rose sharply, suggesting they were traveling to urban areas to buy heroin.
-- Monthly use of heroin by students in grades eight through 12 increased more than 700 percent in Indiana between 1993 and 2004.
-- Porter County had nearly four times as many drug deaths as Marion County (Indianapolis) in 2002.
Kane-Willis said the study suggests the affluence of Porter County means youth have money available to spend on drugs, and the report suggests the proximity to urban areas such as Chicago makes drugs easy to obtain. She said Porter County is an example of the "emerging drug trend" across the country -- heroin usage increasing because the drug is cheap and because drug educators have failed to impress upon youth how much more dangerous heroin is than marijuana.
Spitler once asked his daughter why she tried heroin and she said, "I thought it would be fun."
"They're gravely mistaken and they learn that very quickly," Kane-Willis said.
Kane-Willis said there is hope for Porter County. She said the focus groups with youth show the "Truth" advertisements, which try to steer teens away from cigarettes by giving them the truth, are more effective than advertisements linking drug usage and terrorism. She believes it is possible to stem the tide of heroin usage in Porter County.
Conover, who has spent half his adult life behind bars because of heroin, hopes the next group of youth don't follow his footsteps.
"I never thought it could happen to me, but it did," Conover said.
"I didn't listen to what people told me, but I wish people could learn from my mistakes."
Spitler, who does anti-drug presentations for schools and organizations, frequently talks about drug addiction being a "beast" that gains strength when shrouded in secrecy.
"This report puts an end to a lot of that secrecy ... about how many lives it claims and affects," Spitler said.
"Hopefully, this will weaken the beast in some way if we, as a community, can come together and have a coordinated effort to change our perspectives and thought processes, and take some definitive action."



Porter County swamped by heroin

By Jon Seidel / Post-Tribune staff writer Jan 25, 2005

Porter County’s rate of emergency room visits related to heroin usage ranks third in the nation. Only Philadelphia and Baltimore ranked worse.

Porter County’s rate of heroin-related deaths is among the country’s top 10 — outpacing cities including New York, Seattle and Chicago.

About nine of every 100,000 Porter County residents die yearly due to the drug.

These findings from a new study will be discussed today in a morning conference specifically dealing with the heroin problem.

In a region where the mention of a national crime ranking is synonymous with Gary and its notorious murder rate, the news is startling. One official called it sobering.

Heroin has a grip on Porter County.

But people like Rodney Sass, the executive director of the Moraine House, might not be surprised.

The Moraine House was originally founded in Valparaiso to help alcohol addicts. But by about 2000, it became harder to ignore the drug addicts coming there for help. Seventy percent of his current residents are trying to get away from drugs, Sass said. At least 30 percent of those are heroin users.

“It used to be nothing in this area,” Sass said.

More treatment facilities like Moraine are among the suggestions in the report.

According to the report, in a per capita compilation, Porter County’s rate of emergency room mentions of heroin by 18- to 25-year-olds in 2002 was 219. In Philadelphia, that rate was 248; it was 275 in Baltimore.

The heroin-death rate in Porter County during 2002 was 9.17 per 100,000 residents, 10th in the nation behind places like New Orleans, Baltimore and Las Vegas.

The lead researcher of the report, Kathleen Kane-Willis of Roosevelt University’s Institute for Metropolitan Affairs, gathered the information for her report from Porter County law enforcement and hospital data.

Sass says the information Kane-Willis found fits the description of what he has seen.

“I was amazed at how young and how many I ran across last summer,” Sass said.

The report also found that arrests in Porter County for heroin-related crimes increased by more than 700 percent between 2002 and 2004 — from 10 arrests to 84.

According to Kane-Willis’ research, while the drug usage is in Porter County, the actual purchasing takes place elsewhere. Youths here are making contacts that will go into downtown Chicago for them and purchase heroin for a cheap price.

“It’s cheaper than a six-pack,” Willis said.

That’s something Rocco Schiralli, president of the Porter County Community Action Drug Coalition, feels like he already knew. His organization commissioned the Roosevelt report after a series of heroin-related deaths involving youths in the area.

“It kind of just verifies what your experience tells you,” Schiralli said.

The CADC contacted Kane-Willis because of a study she had done on heroin use in the Chicago suburbs.

“I knew that the problem in the suburbs was more intense than it was in the city,” Kane-Willis said. “I think the problem in Porter County is more extreme than in the Chicago suburbs.”

While the idea that heroin has found its way into Porter County is not new, most leaders agreed the comparisons to other cities were surprising.

“The report is sobering,” Valparaiso Mayor Jon Costas said. “Our children need to understand heroin use is virtually a self-imposed death sentence.”

Costas and Schiralli hope this report will get the community to prevent heroin addiction from spreading.

“It’s a problem for the entire community to take ownership of,” Costas said. “We all need to be part of the solution.”

In her report, Kane-Willis gives about 10 recommendations for solving Porter County’s heroin problem. Most revolve around education.

“Really teaching kids what the different harms are associated with each drug,” Kane-Willis said. “We don’t want to teach kids that all drugs are the same.”

Kane-Willis said some drug prevention programs, such as Just Say No and D.A.R.E. have been found to be completely ineffective.

“Kids don’t just say no,” Kane-Willis said.

But programs that have involved input from youths, such as the TRUTH advertising campaign against cigarettes, have been found to get kids’ attention.

“That’s the same kind of thing you have to do with drug education,” Kane-Willis said.

But most people, including Sass, know it won’t be easy to keep kids away.

“All it takes is that one bad acquaintance,” Sass said. “All that education is bogus in their mind.”

The seminar, “A Multiple Indicator Analysis of Heroin Use in Northwest Indiana,” begins at 8 a.m. today at the Porter County Jail.

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