Porter County Coroner Educates Community in Learn@Lunch

Porter-Starke Services hosted their monthly Learn@Lunch series on Tuesday morning with an informative and educational lecture by Porter County Coroner Chuck Harris. The lecture was called "The True Face of Drug-related and Mental Health Deaths in Porter County," and Harris discussed different points that were relevant to the topic at hand.

"The Learn@Lunch series is an opportunity for us to do community outreach to illustrate the importance of mental wellness in everyone's life. It's also a continuing education opportunity clinicians that care for others in our community," Elliott Miller Marketing and Development Specialist at Porter-Starke Services said. "Given recent events that occurred nationally, Chuck gives voice to why treatment and local initiatives are so important to help prevent these types of tragedies. Chuck is a Board Member for Porter-Starke Services and the things that he does in the community are very valuable."

Harris stated that in 2013 there were 1,487 deaths in Porter County and 16 of those deaths were from heroin overdoses. That number doesn't seem that high, but of all the opioid usage in the world, America consumes about 80% of what is created.

How has this come to be? Heroin was originally created in in the 18th century by scientists as a substitute for morphine. The drug was used as a pain reliever for tuberculosis, cancer, child birth, and even menstrual cramps. It was touted to be less dangerous and less addictive than morphine but as it turns out, it was just as addictive and dangerous. Scientists tried again and created methadone and stated that this time this drug would be less addictive and dangerous, and again they were wrong.

There are multiple reasons that the US uses more opioids that other places in the world. Purity of heroin has gone up and the price has gone down and we are one of the richest countries in the world so we can afford to buy it. And since instant gratification is part of the norm here, we are always looking for that quick fix. A high school athlete gets hurt during an important game, then he gets a shot of something so he can continue playing so his team can win. Someone is in a terrible accident that leaves them in constant pain, there is a pill that makes the pain go away. Someone is under a lot of stress and they need to get way from it all. There is a medication that can help them.

In America we advertise medication usage on television, not many other countries do that. This makes the idea of taking drugs more mainstream. Kids and young adults are more susceptible to being swayed due not only to the media but also by their friends. The fear of social rejection and the curiosity that comes with being young makes kids an easy target. Harris stated that in 2013 91,000 kids over the age of 12 tried heroin for the first time. That's a staggering number. What can we do to make positive changes?

"We need to acknowledge the problem and get the entire community to get involved," Harris said. "One or two people won't do it. This is too big. And we need to give kids the whole story about these drugs and give them the complete honest truth."

If untreated heroin and opioid problem in America will continue to escalate. Another problem Harris brought up is those with mental disorders going without treatment. He spoke of recent cases where individuals with mental disorders like depression and bi-polar disorder had downward spirals that eventually ended in their deaths. If help had gotten to these people they might have lived.

"This is why the work that you do at Porter-Starke is so important," Harris said.

Learn@Lunch is a once-a-month series that consists of educational seminars featuring informative and practical mental health and wellness topics. The events are free and open for the public to attend.

For more information on the Learn@Lunch call Porter-Starke Services at 219-531-3500.