Howard County’s overdose death rate impacted by lack of treatment centers

KOKOMO, Ind. - New numbers released this week show a spike in drug overdose deaths in Howard County. The coroner's office released the 2017 statistics in a new report that shows the number of deaths were nearly double the amount from last year.

One of the problems could be a lack of available drug treatment facilities in the area. Howard County Coroner Dr. Steven Seele said in 2017 there were men and women, young and old, that died from overdosing on drugs.

In 2015, the county had 34 drug overdose deaths. In 2016, 24 deaths were recorded. In 2017, the county reported 44 overdose deaths. Dr. Seele said many of them were from opioids. Some of the cases included fentanyl and Dr. Seele said toxicology results showed many of the deaths were found to be from poly-substance abuse.

"It is very concerning. It’s heartbreaking for these families and it’s heartbreaking for a community," Dr. Seele said.

Last year, Dr. Seele reports the county spend $75,000 on autopsies and toxicology screens for overdose deaths. Recently, a statewide program called Systems of Care was introduced in Howard County. The program will works towards finding solutions for mental health and addiction services for those who can't afford treatment. It will also help with prevention and early identification for youth and families.

The lack of available treatment facilities in Howard County could be one reason for the spike in overdoses.

The Gilead House is the only recovery home in Howard County. The home provides a 6-month recovery program for women with treatment, room, and board at no cost to them.

"They just need to come with the shirt on their back and they can come in," said founder and executive director Reba Harris.

Women travel more than 60 miles to come to this facility since it's the only one of it's kind in the community. In Kokomo, there is currently not a recovery home for men.

Right now, the Gilead House has 17 women staying in the facility, with two more expected to come this week. They can take 20 women into the facility at a time.

Because of financial issues, though, this facility is struggling to continue to provide. Harris said they are about $40,000 short. Harris is hoping the community can see the continued need for a recovery house and help support their work.

"Our women have said to me, if I wasn’t here, I’d be dead," Harris said.

For more on The Gilead House, click here.