Rise in Drug Use Concerns Pulaski County Officials, Impacts County Budget

Drug abuse is costing Pulaski County. Circuit Judge Michael Shurn told the county council Monday that drug-related cases are a big concern. “Heroin is epidemic in this state, as is, then, what’s supposed to help with that, what they put you on to help wean you off of heroin,” he said. “So people are showing up with all of that. Babies are born. So it’s sort of a mess.”

To help deal with the problem, Judge Shurn is applying for grant funding from the Indiana Supreme Court to work with surrounding counties to set up a drug court.

Meanwhile, Sheriff Jeff Richwine told council members that the synthetic drug fentanyl is an increasing concern. “It was originally designed as an elephant tranquilizer,” he explained. “You’ve got people that are now mixing it with heroin. That’s where all these OD deaths – OD deaths in the country now have become the number one leading accidental cause of death. It’s bad. It really is.”

Richwine said that fentanyl has not yet been found in Pulaski County, but it has been seen in Jasper County. He said the drug is so powerful that it can be absorbed through the skin. That’s why sheriff’s deputies now carry opioid antidote Narcan for their own use, in case they come into contact with it.

Chief Deputy Coroner Jon Frain said he’s alarmed by the rise in drug use in Pulaski County. “We’ve had a very busy 2017,” he said. “We’ve had 20 coroner’s calls, which is about four a month, which is about one a week, through the first of June, which is a pretty alarming amount of calls for a little county like ours. We’ve had a homicide, two suicides, numerous drug overdoses, two motor vehicle accidents and an infant death.”

Additionally, Judge Shurn told council members that drugs have led to a spike in court cases involving children. In 2015, Pulaski County had zero termination cases, which is where the court’s being asked to permanently take children away from their parents. This year, Shurn expects 20 to 25. “You have to provide attorneys for all of those cases,” he explained. “Sometimes in some cases, you have a mother with three kids, and all three kids have different fathers. So you may be appointing four or five attorneys in one case.”

Now, Pulaski County’s used up the money it had budgeted this year for attorneys in civil cases. Shurn requested an additional appropriation of $30,000 to replenish that fund. He told council members that 40 percent of that should be reimbursed by the state. They voted to advertise Shurn’s appropriation request for future consideration.