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Reversing Number of Deaths From Prescription Drugs

April 26th was Prescription Drug Take Back Day across the country and now local law enforcement want people to drop off their unused or unwanted prescriptions because of the growing issue of prescription drug abuse.
"The City and the County and the State working together, it was just huge."
April 26th was Prescription Drug Take Back Day across the country and now local law enforcement want people to drop off their unused or unwanted prescriptions because of the growing issue of prescription drug abuse. 

In 2010, more than 3,000 young people died of prescription drug overdoses.

In a special report, WFFT's Audra Streetman looks at what one local Sheriff's Department is doing to reverse the number of deaths from prescription drugs.

In many local counties the death toll from prescription drug overdoses is rising but in Huntington County, the coroner reports fewer prescription related deaths in 2013 than in 2012.

"In 2010, we had 10 deaths related to prescription drug overdoses.  In 2011, it went to 11 and just kept creeping up each year.  Last year we only had 8 deaths."

Huntington County Coroner Philip Zahm is part of a Prescription Drug Abuse Task Force created 2 years ago.

"The City and the County and the State working together, it was just huge."

Sheriff Terry Stoffel adds that even though deaths are declining in Huntington County, arrests are common.

In early April, Huntington Police identified 31 people wanted on drug-related charges.  30 are incarcerated in the Huntington County Jail, many of them prescription drug abusers.

"Our goal is not arrests, our goal is compliance and education.  That's what we want.  We don't want these deaths."

Law enforcement around the region now offer prescription drug drop off boxes for people to dispose of unwanted prescription medication.

"We have a tremendous amount of prescription drugs that are turned in here so it is working."

Selling these pills is a lucrative business.  According to federal law enforcement agencies, a single tablet of Oxycontin has up to an $80 street value.

"I took a lot of Oxycontin when I was out there, I took a lot of Zanaz."

8 years ago, Steven Fine was court ordered to attend a faith-based recovery program in Los Angeles called the Dream Center.  He and his wife Kerrie now run a local chapter of the dream center in Huntington.

"We hope to be the alternative to the jail systems."

Allen County is experiencing an 80% increase is overdose deaths in the last 5 years.  Health Commissioner Doctor Deb McMahn is working with a state-wide drug task force to change the way doctors manage pain in patients.

"We're trying to move from looking at this pain scale from 1-10.  Move away from that and more into what are you wanting to do that this pain is keeping you from doing?"

In October, the Medical Licensing Board was charged by legislators to pass prescribing rules, recommending more frequent patient visits and urine samples.

"My office is unique in that we're able to bring all of our clients together to really address a common effort for this problem."

2 years ago, Indiana Attorney General, Greg Zoeller created and first and only state-wide prescription abuse task force.  The website bitterpill.in.gov is a resource for doctors, law enforcement, and those looking for more information about prescription drug abuse.

"Our work is going to go on locally and in the state but I think until we can get the attention of the government in Washington to address some of these problems, we're not going to be able to do everything."
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