Opioids Fueling Drug Crisis (Mentions Sullivan and Knox County)

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My Wabash Valley on 5-23-2018 by Dana Winklepleck

View original article for video featuring Sullivan County CPO Barb Lance.

Opioids are fueling a drug abuse crisis.

The pills, aimed a treating pain, kill roughly two people everyday in Indiana. In fact, the latest figures show 66 percent of all drug overdose deaths in the United States are caused by opioids. The staggering problem is growing, wrecking families and destroying lives, but the court system hopes to help.

Kim Libach admits for many years she abused opioids and Xanax. It lead to multiple driving arrests. Her latest one for “Operating While Intoxicated” was in 2017.

Kim Libach, “It’s upsetting. It’s embarrassing. Not a place you want to go.”

Kim got hooked on opioids 15 years ago, when a doctor prescribed them for back pain. In recent years, she obtained opioids both legally with a prescription and illegally.

Kim Libach, “I ran out here or there and would try to find them and it did get very time consuming.”

Now Kim is in Judge Ryan Johanningsmeier’s drug court. A program he started in Knox County.

Judge Ryan Johnanningsmeier, “Drug courts focus on actually changing behavior. And the focus on changing behavior is to protect the public and focus on ending the drug problem in our area.”

Drug courts are growing in popularity across Indiana. One goal is to get people off drugs and you’ll likely reduce crime.

Judge Ryan Johnanningsmeier, “Well over 80 percent of crimes are because of a drug habit or to fund a drug habit or their actual possession themselves. So they’re the drug crimes. But a lot of burglaries, a lot of theft and property crimes are because of drug use.”

There’s not a specific drug court in Sullivan County, but Prosecutor John Springer also tries to help non-violent addicts get treatment.

Prosecutor John Springer, “They’ll do a period of time in jail then will transition into patient rehab. From there, they’ll go to an intensive outpatient program. It’s sort of a stepping down process. That will sort of ease them out of the addiction.

In both Sullivan and Knox Counties, meth is still the number one drug people are charged with using illegally, but meth is not near as deadly as opioids. More than half of all overdose deaths are opiod related.

Those working in the criminal justice system like Sullivan County Chief Probation Officer Barb Lance are told to get ready and be educated, unless something is done, opioid problems will only get worse.

Barb Lance Sullivan Co. Chief Probation Officer, “We know that it is here. We hear law enforcement. We know it’s in the community. So, we know it’s heading this way. So hopefully we’re going to be on the forefront of this and combat this a little more on our end.”

As for Kim, she’s doing well.

Kim Libach, ” I am really glad I got into drug court. I don’t think I could have quit the Xanax on my own and I ended up quitting the pain pills too.”

Both the judge and prosecutor say people who can’t find prescription opioids often turn to heroin which is also an opioid.

That’s why, were also starting to see an increase in heroin abuse. But heroin is more dangerous than taking prescription drugs, because it can be even more deadly.