Expert: Cincinnati immunity program could help Indiana addicts

On Wednesday, a Cincinnati judge granted immunity to anyone who turns in a drug that could lead to an overdose. (WISH Photo/Howard Monroe)

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – Overdose awareness advocates say recent high-profile drug cases are bringing needed attention to a serious problem.

“When you put a face to it and people talk about it, it will help raise awareness,” said Justin Phillips, the founder of Overdose Lifeline, Inc.

On Wednesday, a Cincinnati judge granted immunity to anyone who turns in a drug that could lead to an overdose.

With a heroin problem of our own in central Indiana, there could be a big impact here.

Cincinnati officials say there have been more than 300 overdoses in Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky and West Virginia since mid-August. 147 overdoses were in a single week.

“How many more people are going to lose?” Phillips asked rhetorically. “When are we going to win? When are we ever going to turn the tide?”

Phillips founded Overdose Lifeline, Inc after her son Aaron died of an overdose in 2013.

“When Aaron passed away we weren’t talking about it and if we aren’t talking about it then we’re not paying close enough attention to get anything done,” she said.

She points to the recent high-profile deaths of Cory Monteith, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, and Prince as reasons why we need to talk about addiction.

“The unfortunate death of Prince was really an eye opener because no one really knew he was suffering,” she said.

Minnesota officials say prince had fentanyl in his system, a powerful pain reliever. That’s the same substance now being found in heroin in Cincinnati and in Jennings County Indiana.

Heroin is also being mixed with carfentanil, an animal tranquilizer.

Phillips says the immunity being granted in Cincinnati could help, but says they need to get to higher level dealers. That way they may be able to save the next Aaron….or the next Prince.

“The more we make it real and personal the more I think we make accomplishments,” she said.

Phillips and her organization was successful in getting Aaron’s Law passed last year. It allows for Narcan to be available statewide without a prescription.

The antidote reverses the effects of an overdose.

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