Of all the felony court cases in Shelby County from January 2018 to July 2019, 35% of the people charged faced drug-related charges. That is just the tip of the iceberg, when it comes to substance abuse and its effects to the county and its citizens, according to local officials.

Of the 600 people helped by the Shelbyville Savation Army in the last six months, 60% had been negatively affected by substance abuse in some way.

Over $100 billion is spent on illegal drugs in the U.S. alone in a year. However, it costs the U.S. over $600 billion every year, when taking into account how it effects other aspects of society: drug-related crime, criminal justice costs, theft, healthcare costs, interpersonal conflicts, loss of workplace productivity, and drug-related accidents, including overdoses and deaths. That is according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Four people died last year from drug overdoses in Shelby County. Others who died had substance abuse issues contributing to their death, but was not the #1 cause.

Substance abuse in Shelby County is a problem. It contributes to the breakdown of a stable society with crime, domestic and health problems and lost productivity. However, there are people in Shelby County seeking a solution.

Shelby County has law enforcement, the court system, the school districts, social service agencies and substance abuse counseling and treatment doing what they can in their own arenas.

Recovery-Oriented Systems of Care (ROSC) is trying to pull all the available resources together in Shelby County in a common cause, because the task is great. ROSC is a coordinated network of community-based services and supports that is person-centered and builds on the strengths and resilience of individuals, families, and communities to achieve abstinence and improved health, wellness, and quality of life for those with or at risk of alcohol and drug problems.

The felony drug charges in Shelby County were only for drugs, not alcohol-related crimes. However, alcohol is a factor in other crimes, like aggravated battery, indecency with a child, driving under the influence, domestic abuse, etc.

In some cases substance abuse crimes in Shelby County have become multi-generational.

"We are to the third generation. We are getting calls on the children and the grandchildren of people we have arrested," said Shelbyville Police Chief Dave Tallman. "The kids aren't going to be any greater than the leadership they see and they have no respect for their parents."

Tallman agrees that there is a drug problem in Shelbyville, but no greater than anywhere else.

"We are not seeing a big influx in individual crime, burglary and theft for drugs." Tallman said. "They take from each other, but not the public too much. There is some shoplifting, but not a lot in the general population. They will shoplift, because they know they will get a slap on the wrist, but they won't rob a person, because they know they'll get prison. We have to make the punishment outweigh the crime."

Tallman does say they are seeing more evidence of substance abuse on calls that are not initially drug-related.

"We are seeing an increase in regular service calls, domestics, etc.," Tallman said. "On domestic calls, we are seeing more meth and people tweaking, more drugs involved."

In addition to the substance abuse situations that end up in court or on the police blotter, there are a host of other situations that affect the county negatively.

Susie Kensil is the Shelby County Coordinator for Dove, Inc., an organization that deals with domestic abuse.

"About 70% of the cases I work on involved some sort of substance abuse," Kensil said. "However, it is important to note that substances don't cause abuse, but they increase the danger and the severity of the abuse."

Mindy Mars is a Welfare Case Worker with the Salvation Army Center in Shelbyville that helps families in need, some homeless, also individual women, women and children together, and even some single men.

"We have helped 628 people in the last 6 months," Mars said. "Probably 60% of those who come for assistance have had some sort of substance abuse in their situation that has contributed to their needing help. We have had 43 people that are homeless and 26 of those were due to drug use."

Natalie Inman is a coordinator for substance abuse treatment through Shelby County Community Services. She reported that 144 active clients at the Shelbyville substance abuse facility that have come in since January. Shelby County residents make up 108 of those clients that walk-in on their own, or are referred by Department of Child and Family Services, or are court-ordered from parole or probation.

She said that 54% are men and 46% are women. The biggest group of clients are age 30-39 (109). Out of a group of 283 clients in the Shelbyille and Taylorville facilities, 169 (59%) are 22-39 years of age.

"Out of a random 75 competed assessments, there are more clients with alcohol being the number one "drug of choice" than any other substance," Inman reported. "The most common drugs of choice behind alcohol, includes marijuana as a second choice, following methamphetamine and then opiods."

Mark Bragg, a Certified Addictions Counselor at the CEAD Council (Central East Alcoholism and Drug Council), reported that in the last 12 months he has discharged 68 clients from treatment, either successfully or unsuccessfully, and 13 more are currently in treatment with 5 more being assessed in the next 7 days, a total of 81.

Some wonder about the cost of treatment. Treatment is also much less expensive than its alternatives, such as incarcerating addicted persons. For example, the average cost for 1 full year of methadone maintenance treatment is approximately $4,700 per patient, whereas 1 full year of imprisonment costs approximately $24,000 per person. Drug addiction treatment has been shown to reduce associated health and social costs by far more than the cost of the treatment itself.

According to several conservative estimates, every dollar invested in addiction treatment programs yields a return of between $4 and $7 in reduced drug-related crime, criminal justice costs, and theft. When savings related to healthcare are included, total savings can exceed costs by a ratio of 12 to 1. Major savings to the individual and to society also stem from fewer interpersonal conflicts; greater workplace productivity; and fewer drug-related accidents, including overdoses and deaths.

ROSC will be holding their next meeting on Aug. 22 from 3:30-4:30 p.m. at the Shelbyville Outpatient Office at 155 S. Morgan St. in Shelbyville. Anyone or any organization, including law enforcement, legal, medical, and clergy, that want to be a part of this coordinated effort to reduce substance abuse in Shelby County is encouraged to attend.

Coming Tuesday: Joanna's House ministers to Shelby County families in need

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