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Seizing on Opioid Crisis, a Drug Maker Lobbies Hard for Its Product

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The New York Times on 06/11/2017 by ABBY GOODNOUGH and KATE ZERNIKE

The ads have been popping up on billboards, buses and subways and in glossy magazines, with portraits of attractive men and women and a simple question in bold letters: What is Vivitrol?

Five years ago, Vivitrol was a treatment for opioid addiction that was struggling to find a market. Now, its sales and profile are rising fast, thanks to its manufacturers’ shrewd use of political connections, and despite scant science to prove the drug’s efficacy.

Last month, the health and human services secretary, Tom Price, praised it as the future of opioid addiction treatment after visiting the company’s plant in Ohio. He set off a furor among substance abuse specialists by criticizing its less expensive and more widely used and rigorously studied competitors, buprenorphine and methadone, as medications that “simply substitute” for illicit drugs.

It was the kind of plug that Vivitrol’s maker, Alkermes, has spent years coaxing, with a deft lobbying strategy that has targeted lawmakers and law enforcement officials. The company has spent millions of dollars on contributions to officials struggling to stem the epidemic of opioid abuse. It has also provided thousands of free doses to encourage the use of Vivitrol in jails and prisons, which have by default become major detox centers.

Opioid Dealers Embrace the Dark Web to Send Deadly Drugs by Mail

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The New York Times on 06/11/2017 by NATHANIEL POPPER

As the nation’s opioid crisis worsens, the authorities are confronting a resurgent, unruly player in the illicit trade of the deadly drugs, one that threatens to be even more formidable than the cartels.

The internet.

In a growing number of arrests and overdoses, law enforcement officials say, the drugs are being bought online. Internet sales have allowed powerful synthetic opioids such as fentanyl — the fastest-growing cause of overdoses nationwide — to reach living rooms in nearly every region of the country, as they arrive in small packages in the mail.

The authorities have been frustrated in their efforts to crack down on the trade because these sites generally exist on the so-called dark web, where buyers can visit anonymously using special browsers and make purchases with virtual currencies like Bitcoin.

The problem of dark web sales appeared to have been stamped out in 2013, when the authorities took down the most famous online marketplace for drugs, known as Silk Road. But since then, countless successors have popped up, making the drugs readily available to tens of thousands of customers who would not otherwise have had access to them.

Among the dead are two 13-year-olds, Grant Seaver and Ryan Ainsworth, who died last fall in the wealthy resort town of Park City, Utah, after taking a synthetic opioid known as U-47700 or Pinky. The boys had received the powder from another local teenager, who bought the drugs on the dark web using Bitcoin, according to the Park City police chief.

Operation Blue Rain nets 99 arrests over three days

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Wane.com on June 23, 2017

Indiana State Police released details Friday of a three-day effort dubbed “Operation Blue Rain” aimed at curbing the flow of narcotics into the state. The patrol, which ran from June 20 to 22 resulted in 99 arrests and 186 criminal charges.

According to a news release, officers from Indiana State Police, the Miami County Sheriff’s Department, the Peru Police Department, the Fulton County Sheriff’s Department, the Cass County Sheriff’s Department, the Wabash County Sheriff’s Department and the Rochester Police Department took part in the operation.

Overdose video depicts probation response

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Kokomo Perspective on June 6, 2017 by Devin Zimmerman

Aside from law enforcement, perhaps the front line to fighting the drug epidemic in Howard County is housed in the basement of the local courthouse.

Every day the Howard County Probation Department deals with individuals in the throes of addiction, an issue that is taking lives at an accelerated rate locally this year. As such, the department is attempting to help with the issue, expanding its focus outside of the doors of the facility with its crowd-drawing Addiction Impact Panel. But within the courthouse, the dangers of addiction were recently on full display.

Probation department must reimburse offender’s fees

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Indiana Lawyer on June 23, 2017 by Olivia Covington

The Marion County probation department must reimburse an offender’s probation fees after the Indiana Court of Appeals held Tuesday the trial court erred by allowing the probation department, and not the court, to impose such fees.

In Jose Arcia De La Cruz v. State of Indiana, 49A05-1610-CR-2417, Jose De La Cruz was charged with Class A misdemeanors operating a vehicle while intoxicated endangering a person and operating a vehicle with an ACE of 0.15 or more. De La Cruz was found guilty of only the lesser-included offense of Class C felony operating a vehicle while intoxicated and was sentence to 60 days in jail, with 56 days suspended, and an additional 180 days on non-reporting probation.

Porter County probation chief retires after 35 years

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NWI Times on 6-19-2017 by Bob Kasarda

Porter County Chief Adult Probation Officer Stephen Meyer

VALPARAISO — As Stephen Meyer wraps 35 years this week with the Porter County Adult Probation Department, including just more than six years at the helm, he said his guiding philosophy has been simple.

“If the person on (the) other side of your desk thinks you care about them, you can make a difference in their lives,” he said.

Meyer said he has taken more of a social work approach to the job as compared to law enforcement.

This belief that he could make a difference has helped fuel him over the course of so many years in a job that can be a real struggle at times, he said. It has also left him satisfied enough to know when to call it quits and retire.

“I think people can stick around in government jobs too long,” he said. “It’s a privilege, not a right, to be in these positions.”

Porter Superior Court Judge Roger Bradford, who along with the county’s other judges will name a new chief probation officer, said Meyer’s retirement is a big loss.

“We’re losing a lot of experience and quality,” he said.

Bradford’s own 37 years with county government has tracked right alongside Meyer’s time with the probation office.

Meyer said he hired in as a probation officer in 1982 after earning a history major in college and noticing an advertisement in the newspaper. He had intended to pursue a career as an attorney in the footsteps of his late father, Al Meyer, who had served as dean of the Valparaiso University School of Law.

“I had no clue what probation did,” he said.

Meyer quickly found out and has never looked back with regret. He and the other probation officers in the county are fortunate, he said, in that community correction efforts are handled by the nonprofit Porter County PACT.

“Steve will be missed by those of us who work closely with him and by the community he served,” said PACT Director Tammy O’Neill.

“Throughout his time with the probation department, Steve participated in, and advocated for, practices that promote positive change in participants, the criminal justice system and the larger community,” she said.

Porter Circuit Court Judge Mary Harper also lauded Meyer’s efforts.

“Steve is highly knowledgeable about the technical aspects of probation and how the use of probation, when appropriate, fits into the overall justice system,” she said.

Meyer said a key element is recognizing that the 1,500 offenders on formal probation and the same number on unsupervised probation are not all the same and that programs need to be tailored to meet those individual needs.

“If you can get people to change the way they think, you can get them to change the way they act,” he said.

The local efforts have paid off, Meyer said. Porter County sent 66 people to the Indiana Department of Correction last year, he said, which is impressive considering it’s the ninth largest county and yet 39 other counties across the state sent more offenders to prison.

“We’ve always been at the forefront of alternative sentencing programs in this county,” he said.

Porter County Prosecutor Brian Gensel lauded Meyer’s contribution to the local criminal justice team.

“In the 29 years I have worked with Steve, he has unwaveringly exhibited integrity, hard work, a strong moral compass and compassion,” Gensel said. “He always viewed being a probation officer as a calling, not merely a job. He has served the citizens of Porter County well and will be missed by his many friends in county government.”