INDIANAPOLIS – County prosecutors and other personnel from the offices of county prosecutors from all over the state were in attendance on Wednesday, July 25, for the Indiana Court system’s statewide substance abuse summit.
The Indiana Supreme Court convened teams from every county as part of the judicial branch’s pledge to help fight the public health crisis. The Court invited county leaders and stakeholders to attend the summit, from prosecutors and judges, public defenders, probation officers, law enforcement officials, doctors and other medical professionals as well as representatives from the Department of Child Services.
The Summit was sponsored by the Indiana Supreme Court, Indiana Family and Social Services Administration, Indiana University Addictions Grand Challenge, and the Association of Indiana Counties.
The Indiana Prosecuting Attorneys Council (IPAC) reported all 92 counties in the state were represented in some capacity at the event and that attendance by numerous prosecutors showed a commitment to confronting the state’s ongoing substance abuse problem and learning best practices for how to deal with and treat people struggling with addiction.
Greene County representatives attending the summit included Greene Superior Judge Dena Martin, Investigator Julie Criger from the Greene County Prosecutor’s Office, Nicole Noel from Greene County Drug and Alcohol Services as well as a representative from Greene County Department of Child Services and medical staff from the Greene County Sheriff’s Department.
"As a prosecuting attorney, public safety is paramount and if there is an opportunity to make our communities safer we have a responsibility to explore those options," said Ric Hertel, Ripley County prosecutor. "It was encouraging to see people from varied disciplines come together with like goals in mind."
Attendees heard in-depth discussions about Medication Assisted Treatment to help combat the cravings and withdrawals of substance abuse. Medication Assisted Treatment must have proper assessments and protocols in place to avoid diversion and misuse of these medicines. Careful monitoring and accountability is a must for these programs to be successful.
Whether it is opioids or some other abused drug, every county in Indiana has felt a strain due to substance abuse. Pat Harrington, prosecutor for Tippecanoe County, said the effects of the ongoing drug crisis is manifesting itself in his office via loaded court dockets dealing with drug issues.
“Across the state, everyone is loaded down with drug cases, we don’t have enough people in our office,” Harrington said. “And I’m hearing that from everyone I’ve talked to.”
The hope with a carefully and competently monitored Medication Assisted Treatment is that people regularly taking medication to suppress the urge to abuse drugs may be less likely to re-offend or overdose. Often it takes up to two years for the brain to heal from the damage caused by substance abuse. Fewer people going through the justice system will give some relief to courts, attorneys and local jails. Most importantly it will make Indiana healthier and safer.