Running the toxicology during a death investigation is common practice at the Lake County Coroner's Office.
The test is done for motor vehicle crashes, workplace incidents and suspicious deaths, according to Lake County Coroner Merrilee Frey. But as the opioid crisis presses on, toxicology costs related to overdose deaths is draining the budget, Frey said.
"One of the concerns we have here at the Lake County Coroner's Office is the huge increase in toxicology expenses," Frey said.
In 2016, the department spent more than $86,000 on toxicology tests, Frey said. The cost for 2017 has exceeded $97,000, Frey said.
"That lends to this opioid crisis," Frey said.
Frey's toxicology budget is one part of the need for more resources to address the opioid crisis, which state and federal leaders have vowed to fight, but Northwest Indiana officials said any assistance must be directed to education, treatment and enforcement.
"At this time, I believe that additional funding is desperately needed," Frey said.
President Donald Trump has declared the opioid crisis a public health emergency.
In Indiana, Gov. Eric Holcomb made combating the opioid crisis a pillar of his "Next Level Agenda."
As this year's legislative session concluded in Indianapolis, Holcomb signed a series of measures aimed at fighting Indiana's drug epidemic. They included limits on the amount of opioids prescribed to a patient for the first time; enabling the local creation of needle exchanges; and elevating the punishment for robbing a pharmacy or pharmacist.
Holcomb has again made fighting the opioid crisis a priority of his 2018 agenda.
Porter County Sheriff David Reynolds stressed the importance of education and prevention in tackling the issue. Reynolds said his team is finishing up its second documentary, interviewing inmates and families affected by the crisis, to be shown in area schools.
"If we can ever turn this around, I think that's where it's going to happen," Reynolds said.
Reynolds stresses that parents and grandparents need to be aware of what's going on and monitor what their kids are doing.
"The parents need to become more accountable and more responsible for what's going on," Reynolds said.
Lake County Sheriff Oscar Martinez, Jr., said agencies need to start teaching children when they are young about drug abuse, but also educate parents and community members about the issue.
Early education is key to get young people to understand the danger of opioids and other drugs, Frey said.
"That's critical," Frey said.
Frey said it's imperative that people have access to recovery programs and medical treatment if they're dealing with substance use disorder.
"We have good programs in our communities, but I can tell you we don't have enough programs in our communities," Frey said.
Valerie Thorn, nurse practitioner and executive director of Recovery Works for Merrillville, said she thinks it's important people know where to get help when in a crisis.
"They're so anxious. I just want to save my child," she said. "In that moment, they have no idea where they're going."
Getting emergency rooms on board to know where to send people to get help could help address that, she said.
There are places to help, "people just don't know that they're there," Thorn said.
The jail often has inmates coming in with addiction issues, Martinez said. Martinez and Reynolds said they're both developing programs to provide treatment for inmates with opioid addictions. Martinez said participating in recovery programs is a condition of release if an inmate is participating in the program.
"We have to start tackling this on the addiction side," Martinez said.
Given the prevalence of the opioid crisis, Frey said people should be more aware of using treatments such as nalaxone and having it available if they have an addicted family member or friend. Frey said her office is doing a series of trainings for emergency responders to go into their communities to teach people how to properly use nalaxone.
The Lake County Sheriff's Department is doing a training session for people who want to learn more about the signs of opiate and opioid addictions, Martinez said.
"It's about recognizing early on the early signs of possible drug abuse," Martinez said.
People will also learn how to administer nalaxone, Martinez said, and it's important people know how to use the treatment because it can help save lives.
"Time is crucial," Martinez said.
Martinez said grants and money are available to police departments to help with the opioid crisis.
After taking office, Martinez brought back an illegal drug fighting unit to focus on enforcement and combat trafficking.
Enforcement is key, Martinez said, and police departments need the training, equipment and funding to identify and apprehend drug suspects.
"We can't seize every drug out there but we can't just sit back and do nothing," Martinez said.
Post-Tribune reporter Becky Jacobs contributed.