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Vanderburgh County officials tackle rising heroin use

EVANSVILLE, Ind. (AP) — Vanderburgh County officials are pushing for awareness and solutions to the increased cases of heroin deaths in the Evansville area.

Vanderburgh County coroner Steve Lockyear told the Evansville Courier & Press (http://bit.ly/2n8bNQL) the area's heroin plague is likely to get worse before it gets better.

He said his office handed nearly 30 heroin or Fentanyl deaths in 2016, more than four times the total in 2015. Lockyear said the drugs are mixed together so often that he counts the overdoses together.

"It's unbelievable," Lockyear said. "It has not appeared to slow down at all. I regretfully am concerned that we're going to exceed that number this year."

In the first two months of this year, there have been three confirmed fatal doses of such drugs. Three other cases are awaiting toxicology reports.

"We're not nearly as affected as the rest of the state when you look at numbers, particularly in the northern part of the state (or over near Cincinnati) in heroin overdoses," said Nick Hermann, Vanderburgh County prosecutor. "It is going up in our community, and it will continue to go up."

Lockyear commended leaders and others for stepping up and talking about the issues relatively quickly.

"For the most part, the community seems to be aware of (the heroin problem), and is reacting in a way in which they're going to try to keep this from getting worse, but it's tough," Lockyear said. "It's a sign of the opiate addiction and the craving that this country has. It's here."

Katy Adams, the director of addiction services at an organization called Stepping Stone, said it's important to have services available for addicts to meet their basic needs, including housing, employment, family services and treatment.

"It's a complex problem, if people don't have all their needs met, they're going to keep using," she said. "So it's going to take all us to (find solutions).

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Information from: Evansville Courier & Press, http://www.courierpress.com

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