Police, community seek answers to heroin epidemic

Police and community members discuss the heroin epidemic at a meeting Wednesday.
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Police say heroin has taken over as the number one street drug in Indianapolis.

They discussed the epidemic with residents at a community meeting Wednesday evening at St. Vincent Hospital and talk about possible solutions.

Now retired, Dee Bailey is trying to get her yard in order. Her magnolia bush is in good shape, but her neighborhood is another story.

"At one point, we actually saw, you know, money and stuff in broad daylight, being transferred," she said.

She's lived in Mars Hill on the southwest side of Indianapolis her entire life and the effects of drugs, she says, are devastating.

"I've just watched the way that the kids in the neighborhood act and the old people just throwing their hands up and leaving. It's real scary," Bailey said.

It hit close to home, literally, to her family and just a street over, when her cousin was shot in what is believed to be some sort of drug deal.

"He was fortunate and did survive, but it's everywhere. It's getting really bad," Bailey said.

So bad, that now hundreds of IMPD officers in the Southwest District carry Narcan, a lifesaving drug that counteracts the effects of a heroin overdose.

The vast majority of men who come to Wheeler Mission are addicted.

"I would say, demographically, especially with the young 20-somethings, when they come in for an intake interview, I would say nine out of ten of these young men are coming to us because of opiate/heroin abuse," said Eric Garner with Wheeler Mission Ministries.

Wednesday evening, about 100 people gathered at St. Vincent Hospital on 86th Street for a very frank conversation.

"The last five years of my life have been nothing but heroin," said Denise Milburn.

She was talking about her daughter, an addict who is currently in jail.

"This is going to just continue throughout her whole life, she will always struggle now," Milburn said.

There were no quick solutions mentioned, no magical remedy to a problem that claimed 110 lives in Indianapolis in 2013.

"It continues to grow, we continue to lose people, but we have to enforce and we have to educate to have long-term success," Riggs said.

Bailey is hoping for solutions.

"It's gotta give somewhere. It's gotta give somewhere or we're all going to be sitting on our front porches with shotguns," she said.

IMPD officers have used Narcan at least a dozen times on drug users who have overdosed. Right now, only Southwest District officers carry the antidote, but the pilot program may soon extend to the entire department.