Forum will focus on rise in heroin use

Brandon Villa, 23, right, a recovering addict, with State Sen. Jim Merritt. (Submitted photo)

Brandon Villa, 23, right, a recovering addict,

By Mark Ambrogi

Hamilton County Sheriff Mark Bowen said the county is not immune to rise in heroin use in Indiana.

To raise awareness, there will be a free forum for families, students and community members from 7 to 9 p.m. on April 21 at the Carmel Clay Public Library. The concept for the forum came from five class members from the Hamilton County Leadership Academy.

Speakers include Hamilton County/Boone County Task Force members, political leaders and those affected by the drug. State Sen. Jim Merritt (R-Indianapolis), one of the speakers, will talk about the overall heroin epidemic that Indiana is experiencing.

“It’s a very inexperienced drug,” Merritt said. “It’s highly addictive and we’re working on saving people that mistakingly overdose. Last year’s lifeline law that added in EMTs can cary Naloxone and Narcan as an overdose antidote. We allowed first responders last year to have it. This year we have a bill to allow civilians to have it and administer it.”

Merritt said every community is faced with this crisis.

“We’re trying to bring it out into the open so we can solve it,” Merritt said.

Merritt said a hit of heroin can be purchased for about $5 now and it’s readily available.

“It flows through all ages,” Merritt said. “I’ve talked to 28,000 kids in the last three years. I talk to them about sexting, texting through driving, bath salts, suicide as well as heroin. My concentration has been on the Narcan for those who suffer an overdose as well as kids making good decisions when it comes to drugs.”

Gina Bardach, the Executive Director of a foundation called Hope over Heroin, knows the plight of heroin addiction well. Her son, Brandon Villa, is a recovering addict.

“It was never spoke about, always swept under the rug,” Bardach stated, in referring to how many overlook drug problems in the schools.

Her organization’s advocacy team testified this year for Sen. Merritt to help pass SB-406.

Sgt. Tom Weger, public officer/education for Fishers police department said they see all types of drugs like any other city would.

“I wouldn’t consider it (heroin) to be major problem in Fishers,” Weger said. “But it is something we are concerned about, and it’s on our radar.”

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