WARSAW – Kosciusko County’s Health Officer, Bill Remington, on Monday night applauded local efforts to combat the opioid crisis.
Remington offered his impressions following a county board of health meeting Jan. 20 in which updated figures on opioid deaths were released.
The statistics show a steady rise in opiate overdose deaths from 2014 to 2017 when it peaked with 24 overdose deaths. But in 2018 and 2019, the number of deaths has been nine and 10, respectively.
While the reduction is impressive, Remington did not sound overly optimistic.
“It’s bad, (but) not as bad as three years ago, which really was an eye-opener. That was horrible,” Remington said.
The two-dozen deaths in 2017 was followed by a concerted effort on several fronts in Kosciusko County to tackle the problem.
The Bowen Center opened a medically assisted treatment clinic in Fort Wayne for opioid addicts and has hosted a handful of community meetings that have drawn hundreds, as leaders and residents question aloud how to fend off the scourge of opioids, heroin and methamphetamine use.
At the same time, Kosciusko County Sheriff’s Office and the prosecutor’s office established a multi-jurisdictional police team known as NET43 to investigate illegal drug activity. The court system and jail have also developed programs to address the issue. A drug court was established a few years ago and the jail now offers a program for addicts.
“In this community, there’s been a real strength on the legal side and the mental health side. Bowen Center is really proactive,” Remington said.
“The legal system is all over it. The sheriff is doing great. They’re really on it,” he said.
The legal system, he said, has served as “a good point of contact” since most addicts are reluctant to seek help unless they are forced to.
Despite the efforts, police continue to make arrests on nearly a daily basis for opioids, heroin and meth.
As for the opiate crisis, Remington pointed to the rise in the popularity of heroin for those who can’t access the opiate pain killer as the biggest culprit.
Bowen Center held a community meeting last week in Warsaw and will host another on Jan. 30 in Syracuse.