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Shelby County leaders meet with state health officials to talk about solutions to drug epidemic

SHELBYVILLE, Ind. -- Leaders in Shelbyville are getting help from state health officials to tackle the community's growing drug epidemic.

A meeting held in Shelbyville on Wednesday morning brought together law enforcement, EMS, fire personnel, youth leaders, county council members and health professionals. Indiana Family and Social Services Administration leaders facilitated the meeting, encouraging leaders to come up with solutions best fit for their community.

Shelbyville Mayor Thomas DeBaun said he knew his city needed help coming up with ways to fight the drug problem after hearing from local manufacturing companies about their struggles to find employees.

"They're having a difficult time finding people who can pass a drug screen," Mayor DeBaun said.

DeBaun said he reached out to FSSA leaders to see if they could organize a meeting. FSSA Chief Advocacy Officer Peggy Welch travels around the state working with local agencies to come up with ideas that fit specifically to the county needs and budget.

"It’s the local leaders that need to be empowered because they know their communities best, they know what their needs are," Welch said. "We, as the government, can help provide resource, expertise, hopefully a little bit of money that goes along with it also. There are some more simple answers that aren’t going to be as expensive."

Many of the issues the city and county are facing are felt by others across the state as well. That includes lack of treatment facilities. DeBaun said they looked at a vacant property in town that turned out to be too expensive to purchase and renovate.

Some ideas mentioned at the meeting included finding support for addicts after they overdose and are taken to the hospital. Currently, the county does not have enough resources to provide services to those people. They are also focusing on prevention efforts.

"This is a good way for everybody to get together to figure out what are some of the answers we can come up with. Some take money, some don’t," said Sheriff Dennis Parks.

The city is working to develop data and statistics on how many drug addicts need resources. They are also hoping to develop a task force that will be comprised of local leaders with a focus on finding immediate and long-term solutions.