(February 7, 2016) – When federal agents led the way in smashing a methamphetamine and painkiller ring supplying addicts in the southern Indiana town of Austin, they likely opened up the doors to a drug withdrawal and heroin overdose crisis, said local and state officials.
Such is the price for weaning rural Indiana communities off narcotics addictions fed by dealers from big cities, admits Scott County Prosecutor Jason Mount.
“Austin, Indiana, is the victim of drug crime. Scott County, Indiana, is the victim of drug crime,” said Mount. “You can’t arrest HIV.”
Ten people, from Detroit to Indianapolis to Louisville, were arrested Friday in Operation Dire Straits aimed at taking down the organization that preyed upon the addicted residents of Scott County where state officials declared a health care emergency last year after 188 confirmed cases of HIV often contracted by addicts sharing dirty syringes.
“Over the next week or so there’s going to be a lot of dope sick individuals walking around the streets of Scott County that are used to getting daily doses of Opana or heroin,” said Sheriff Dan McClain.
Attorney General Greg Zoeller said he will tour southern Indiana hospitals Monday to determine their readiness to handle an expected influx of painkiller users who will unexpectedly go through withdrawal or turn to more powerful street drugs to ease their addiction symptoms.
“Whenever you cut off this supply you will always see people move on to heroin. Unfortunately that’s why we’ve got this spike in use of heroin,” said Zoeller. “In the days after this we are going to see the rate of use of heroin… we’re probably going to see a higher rate of overdoses from the use of heroin so we need to be prepared.”
Zoeller said addicts and families of users can access bitterpill.in.gov for reference information on battling addiction.
Governor Pence’s Deputy Chief of Staff John Hill said lawmakers have recognized that treatment will need to be delivered hand-in-hand with law enforcement to combat Indiana’s prescription drug addiction.
“We do want to give people resources,” he said. “We do want to help. We have something called Recovery Works the General Assembly passed this last year. There’s ten million dollars flowing to local communities this year and twenty million to address in the criminal justice system this drug abuse problem.”
“We’re going to see an outbreak of heroin and we need to be prepared because just because you’re using heroin, it shouldn’t be a death sentence,” said Zoeller.