Indiana's growing opioid abuse crisis has been at the center of public health and policy debates for good reason.
Fortunately, there are sensible steps being taken to address it, with a particularly innovative approach in LaPorte County.
The state of Indiana is working quickly to make treatment available within an hour's drive of every Hoosier, although opening facilities and finding trained staff takes time.
The Healthcare Foundation of LaPorte is doing even better than that. It is paying for treatment for LaPorte County residents who don't have insurance, and it's even paying for transportation to a detox center.
The foundation included this project in its first round of grants last fall. Since November, more than two dozen LaPorte County residents have successfully completed inpatient treatment through the Detox Now program at Recovery Works in Merrillville.
Follow-up outpatient treatment, of course, is essential. The Michigan City-based Swanson Center, through which the grant is channeled, offers that care, but so do others.
One of the benefits of the Detox Now program is rapid response. Beds are reserved and on hand for LaPorte County residents.
When a substance abuser agrees it's time to seek treatment, an immediate solution is necessary. A waiting list gives an addict the opportunity to change his or her mind. It also means the user is still in peril of overdosing.
Coroners throughout Northwest Indiana are now focused on preventing drug overdoses, which have become epidemic in the Region. The numbers are terrifying.
Lake County had 196 drug overdose deaths in 2017, while Porter County had 50 and LaPorte County had 26 (compared to 120, 34 and 32, respectively, the year before).
That's why the Healthcare Foundation of LaPorte's grant program should be recognized for offering an excellent response to the opioid abuse problem.
The foundation also recently presented the findings of a major study on opioid abuse, funded by the foundation, and its board is working on a response that will involve a countywide effort.
The foundation is devoted to improving LaPorte County's health ranking, which is rising after languishing near the bottom among Hoosier counties.
The efforts in LaPorte County should be watched closely elsewhere. This could be the template for a solution to the problem that has proved devastating throughout Indiana.