U.S. Rep. Jim Banks (R-Columbia City) hosted a roundtable with law enforcement, medical officials and advocates Monday morning to discuss the opioid epidemic in northeast Indiana.
Fort Wayne Police Captain Kevin Hunter says there have been 587 non-fatal overdoses throughout 2018, with 37 deaths and 27 more awaiting toxicology. He says over the last 18 months, drug users have been shifting their attention from opioids to meth.
Fort Wayne-Allen County Health Commissioner Dr. Deb McMahan says suicides have also increased by 40 percent locally, and that drug overdoses speak to a greater mental health crisis. She called for greater research, specifically in addiction, so professionals have some kind of blueprint to follow in treating mental health.
“It has become so clear to me that this epidemic is so different from any we’ve ever had; West Nile, SARS, all those things pale because the end organ is the brain,” she said.
McMahan also noted an increase in sexually transmitted infections locally, which she ties back to the surge in meth use and the body’s response to the drug.
For his part, Banks emphasized the bipartisan House Resolution 6, known as the “Support for Patients and Communities Act,” which received 396 votes of support during its House passage in June. But he says time to fully pass the measure is running out.
“We need the Senate to do something before the end of the year to pass their measure so we can move something forward and sign it so we don’t see these numbers continue to escalate without enough action being done at all levels,” said Banks.
Fifth District Representative Susan Brooks (R-Carmel) was also on hand for the discussion. You can read the language of the proposal here: