July 28, 2021

Substance Abuse Program Aims For Treatment Not Jail

The new program will be led by the Marion County Public Health Department.  - Jill Sheridan/WFYI

The new program will be led by the Marion County Public Health Department.

Jill Sheridan/WFYI

A new diversion program aims to help people with substance use disorders avoid jail and overdoses.

The program, named Stronger with Support, will offer the opportunity to enter addiction treatment and receive other needed services. Marion County Public Health Department Director Dr. Virginia Caine said instead of time in jail participants will work to get well. 

“They can complete this program and will treat their substance use, look for the root causes and help meet other needs that they may have,” Caine said.

With grant funding from the Indiana Department of Health, candidates will be referred to the program by the Marion County Prosecutor's Office.  Prosecutor Ryan Mears said the cycle of addiction in the criminal justice system.

“We are not looking to punish individuals who have substance abuse issues,” Mears said. “We’re looking to see what we can do to change behavior.”

The program will start with people facing felony syringe possession charges.  Mears said there are currently 900 such individuals -- a much higher number than average.

The effort may expand to those facing minor drug charges.

While official overdose numbers aren’t in, most providers report an increase in deaths last year.

The health department will work with community partners to develop treatment plans. The program will also partner with the Marion County Public Defender’s Office for legal representation.

Contact WFYI city government and policy reporter Jill Sheridan at jsheridan@wfyi.org. Follow on Twitter: target=_”blank”>@JillASheridan.

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