Courts advance use of new treatment program

busted drug people

Lake County officials are advancing a new treatment program through the jail to combat the opioid epidemic. The Lake County Jail and court system have started implementing a drug treatment program for people addicted to opioids and alcohol to help aid recidivism and treat the growing epidemic in Northwest Indiana.

“Our duty as public servants is to do something,” said Lake County Sheriff Oscar Martinez Jr. “I think we’re doing that.”

Dr. William Forgey, of Correctional Health Indiana and manages jail medical operations, said the jail has two options for the treatment, the injectable medication Vivitrol and a pill version called naltrexone. The doctor said the treatments are similar to a long-acting Narcan.

Martinez said a single treatment lasts for 28 days and blocks opioid and alcohol receptors in the body.

The county began looking into using Vivitrol in 2017 after Coroner Merrilee Frey pushed for the County Council to adopt the prescription for an action plan to help fight the opioid epidemic.

“It’s really making a difference in people’s lives,” said Judge Julie Cantrell

Cantrell said she’s seen cases involving alcoholism and addiction in her court and the treatment program could work for many of those defendants.

“If we don’t do something, it’s going to overrun us,” Cantrell said.

The program is voluntary, Cantrell said, and wrap-around services are in place to follow the treatment program.

“This is something that’s been shown to have success in different places,” Cantrell said.

Related: Opioid crisis affects people ‘across the spectrum,’ says Lake County Sheriff »

The jail staff has worked to identify people for the program, Cantrell said, but she and other judges can also do that since they see many cases that aren’t necessarily drug-related but a defendant might have a substance abuse issue.

The jail has 44 people already going through the treatment program, Forgey said.

“This is a very active thing,” Forgey said.

Given the volume of inmates the medical staff has in detox, Forgey said the program has a lot of potentials.

“These figures could be multiplied by tenfold,” Forgey said.

Martinez said the county is trying to look at the epidemic from multiple angles – increased enforcement, educating community members about prevention and looking at prevention programs.

“That’s what we need to do,” Martinez said.

Cantrell said she’s eventually planning to start a drug court in Lake County, modeled on the veterans’ court.

“We’re certainly laying the foundation,” Cantrell said.