MUNCIE – Delaware County is no longer routinely drawing headlines as the state’s leader, often by incredible margins, in the number of meth labs discovered locally.
But hold off on any related celebrations, or declarations of “mission accomplished” in the never-ending war on drugs.
Like most of the rest of the nation, the Muncie/Delaware County community now finds itself contending with the widespread abuse of opioids, including heroin.
People are overdosing – more than 750 ODs had been reported in Delaware County through October – and they are dying.
The number of fatal overdoses locally in 2017 seems likely to exceed 65.
The required response to the epidemic consumes the time and and already limited resources of emergency medical responders, police agencies and the criminal justice system.
In April, Muncie Police Chief Joe Winkle told city council members that in the wake of a flood of heroin cases, and three February homicides, his department had already spent nearly half of its 2017 overtime budget.
“The grief of a family in the loss of a loved one doesn’t matter if it’s a homicide, an overdose, a car accident,” Winkle said. “I can’t sit across the table from these people (after) these overdoses, who are losing children, and go, ‘We’re not going to be able to work this because we don’t have the money or the manpower.’”
At year’s end, both Muncie city government and the Delaware County commissioners were considering joining other municipalities, including New Castle, in suing manufacturers and distributors of opioid medications.