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Sober living home denial is not what Grant County needs

In the midst of an opioid crisis that kills more than 100 people each day across the U.S., there is a lot of talk about providing treatment to those captured by addiction’s tragic cycle. 

Grant County has the third-worst overdose rate out of Indiana’s 92 counties, according to the most recent reports from the Indiana Department of Health.

In rural communities like Grant County, you hear citizens call out the lack of resources available locally that give people a second chance at life.

Their argument is valid. We lack resources to fight addiction.

But the recent news about Hope House, a sober living home that was denied a permit by the Marion Board of Zoning Appeals, is sad.

We gripe about a lack of treatment options, but when a rehabilitation program is set up nearby, we gripe even more. 

The stigma that continues to surround those addicted to drugs who are seeking treatment will only keep our community hurting for decades to come. 

We want a solution to the drug crisis, but not in our backyard.

If we want change, we’ve got to provide addicts with the tools they need to get clean and stay clean. We can’t ship them away to seek treatment or lock them up in jail, making it even harder for them to become a productive member of society who has a steady job and pays their taxes. 

The old way of doing things isn’t working. 

“You took addicts, you put them in jail and when they came out they’re still addicts and maybe even better at being criminals,” Grant County Superior Court I Judge Jeffrey Todd said in a previous Chronicle-Tribune article. “We started utilizing evidence-based practices.”

Outcomes of treatment for substance use problems are comparable to outcomes from diseases such as hypertension, type 2 diabetes mellitus and asthma, according to US National Library of Medicine and National Institutes of Health studies. 

Treatment can even be less expensive than a term of imprisonment, since most counties have a high recidivism rate, meaning a lot of people are stuck in a cycle of reoffending. 

Recidivism was one of the factors leading to Shane Beal and Brian Blevins opening Hope House.

“You have to have a place where you feel safe and you’re supported, where you’re loved. You hear it all the time. People will say, ‘You can’t heal in the place you got sick in.’ You can’t go back to the place where you were using or stealing,” Beal said previously. 

When news broke about the plans to open the home at 1221 N. Sheridan Road, the Chronicle-Tribune received calls and messages from people living nearby who opposed the idea, citing safety concerns. 

When you think about how the opioid epidemic touches everyone, both rich and poor, nobody is safe. 

If we continue to fear a handful of people who are motivated to change their ways, we won’t fix our issues. 

The clients of the Hope House would be supervised, and Beal said there are plans to install surveillance as an added protection. 

If we keep locking people up, knocking them down instead of building them back up, we will spend more money and lose more lives.  

Our jail is overcrowded, lacking space for any more drug offenders, and our drug court works great yet lacks the capacity to help the masses of people who could benefit from the program. 

The epidemic we are facing is not slowing down anytime soon. 

If our county truly believes in rehabilitation, we need to help projects like the Hope House, not block them.