Small Indiana city facing wave of heroin overdoses

CONNERSVILLE, Ind. (AP) — An eastern Indiana city is facing a wave of heroin abuse that its police chief says has caused 20 overdoses and five deaths since mid-September.

Connersville Police Chief David Counceller said he’s disturbed by the overdoses in the 13,000-person city that’s struggled for years with one of the state’s highest jobless rates.

“It’s gonna have to be a wakeup call. I mean, this is a wakeup call,” he told WTHR-TV.

Counceller said many drug dealers are coming from out of state and are gone before the local drug task force can track them down.

“We don’t have the manpower or the funds,” he said. “We have a drug task force but I’ve got one man on it, right at the moment. Budgets are tight.”

Kelly Robinson of Connersville said her 24-year-old nephew Andrew Hilsky died from an overdose last month. She calls the city’s heroin problem “a plague” and is working with some other residents on planning a meeting and rally for Thursday aimed at finding ways to combat drug abuse.

“It’s time to say that we want to take our community back and we want something better for our youth. We want something better for our lives,” Robinson said. “We want to be able to run to the park and not find a needle next to a trash can.”

The city about 50 miles east of Indianapolis has been hit by several factory closings in recent years. Fayette County’s unemployment rate reached nearly 14 percent in 2010, and while that fell to 7.4 percent in August, it was still the second-worst rate among the state’s 92 counties.

Dale Richmond, a substance abuse counselor with Celebrate Recovery at Connersville’s Calvary Baptist Church, said heroin has become prevalent and cheap around the community.

“If we had a unified voice to try and educate people, and had more prevention efforts … what Connersville needs is a residential place for (drug abusers) to go,” he told the Connersville News-Examiner.

Mayor Leonard Urban said about 70 percent of the city’s crime is drug related and that he’s never seen the city’s police force of about 20 officers busier during his seven years as mayor.

“I can’t put any more policemen on duty,” he said. “We are struggling to keep our heads above water. I have to keep the overtime to nothing.”


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