Indiana dad speaks about son’s fatal heroin overdose and his difficulty affording Vivitrol

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PLAINFIELD, Ind. -- Back in the day, maybe 20 years ago, Tom Hanna was a detective sergeant with the Hammond Police Department, bearded and going undercover to buy drugs.

“My name was Tom so I could remember it,” recalled the retired narc about his covert persona. “Hell, I’m from the old school that if you’re a doper or dope dealer, the hell with you, but my thoughts and what I think needs to be done now has changed.”

Hanna’s outlook has evolved because of what happened to his only adult child, Tommy, almost a year ago.

“He got mad at me over an argument for paying bills and things reference to his relationship, went upstairs where he was living in our house and overdosed on heroin.”

Though he had suspicions, it wasn’t until that day that Hanna knew he had a heroin addict living with him in Plainfield.

“I’ve got pictures of him in those time periods where he looked really well and could never see any outward signs of abuse,” said the dad. “I’ve seen people on heroin overdoses and their eyes roll back in their head and I see that’s what I’m dealing with my son.”

In the hospital emergency room, in privacy and away from his father, Tommy was signed up for Indiana’s HIP 2.0 health insurance, which gave him access to treatment with Vivitrol, an opiate inhibitor that blocks the effects of heroin on the brain.

“They gave him the first injection of Vivitrol,” said Hanna. “A month after that he had his second Vivitrol shot.

“He went to get his fourth shot and they told him he no longer had any insurance.”

Unbeknownst to Hanna, his son’s insurance coverage was only temporary and expired without further application.

“He had presumptive coverage for thirty days under HIP 2.0. I didn’t know that what he had to do was go home and finish filling out all the application for HIP 2.0 to go on.

“Vivitrol shots went from $18 a month with insurance to $1,400 and change for a shot.”

Hanna was unaware his son’s temporary coverage had lapsed because federal privacy laws prohibit medical and treatment details to be shared with the patient’s family, and either through denial or the fog of overdose, Tommy apparently was unwilling to acknowledge or unaware that he needed to follow through on his insurance application process to qualify for ongoing Vivitrol injections.

It wasn’t long after that, with the Vivitrol out of his system, the decision to change his life not yet fully embraced, that Tommy Hanna disagreed with his dad one last time.

“He knew he was making a bad decision. We argued in my driveway for an hour before he went back up there.”

“Up there” was Noblesville and the home of his girlfriend who was struggling with her own health issues.

Two weeks of unanswered phone calls and text messages went by.

“I got the phone call that I’ve seen on TV, read about in the paper, read about on the internet, I got that phone call. It’s a phone call that nobody likes to get. Nobody wants to get and its phone calls I’ve made, notifications I’ve made.”

Hanna said on the other end of the line was a hospital official, reporting what paramedics had discovered at the girlfriend’s apartment.

“We found out that they called and said that they had stopped working on him, that they had made the decision, that the hospital said they had stopped working on him. My son was dead.

“So that’s the last time I saw my son laying in a body bag with the coroner

“It was an overdose of heroin, cocaine and there’s something else there.”

Hanna said, ironically, his son almost fatally overdosed in a suburb, scored drugs close to home and later died 30 miles away from the heart of Indianapolis, proving the county line is no barrier to fatal addictions.

“I’m sure that people don’t want them to know that in their community they’re having X amount of overdoses from heroin, cocaine or whatever in their little bedroom communities,” he said. “The longer this keeps getting out in the open, the more they’re going to have to address it, whether it’s at 38th and Carrollton or Carmel, Noblesville, whatever, and those people aren’t driving down to Indianapolis to get it. They’re getting it up in those communities.”

At least nine times in February, IMPD and IEMS crews responded to patients from other counties who drove to Indianapolis to score drugs and overdose.

Three of those patients were from Avon and one was found dead in a North Shadeland Avenue motel.

In February and March alone, first responders made more than 600 overdose runs in Marion County, including 18 in one day.

Hanna said he is working with State Senator Jim Merritt to expand access to Vivitrol for patients and families.

In Shelby County, Prosecutor Brad Landerwerlen has announced a pilot program to begin treating addicts with Vivitrol for one to two years in order to avoid criminal conviction and jail time.

Tom Hanna said watching the rapid death spiral in which his son was trapped without warning has changed his old narc cuff-em-and-lock-em-up outlook.

“Here we have a 33-year-old father who was a functioning heroin addict just like a lot of people are functioning alcoholics,” he said, “but if they don’t make a conscious effort to change and get off of it, at some point they’re going to get back on it.”