EVANSVILLE, IN (WFIE) - Local and state leaders in public health and drug addiction services gathered today for Vanderburgh County's first drug symposium.
Led by the Vanderburgh County Prosecutor, the event focused on growing heroin overdose deaths in Evansville, the ongoing problem with prescription pill deaths, and state wide trends.
Former addicts even came forward and shared their journey.
Prosecutor Nick Hermann knew an event like this needed to be focused in southern Indiana.
"The problem with prescription drugs is people don't view them as illegal," explained Hermann.
"They don't view it as a problem, or at least a problem they want to talk about. Last year, six people died from traffic accidents. Six people died from homicide. And over 50 people died from prescription pill or heroin. That's jaw-dropping to try and comprehend."
According to Vanderburgh County Deputy Coroner Steve Lockyear, we've had four suspected heroin overdose deaths in 2016.
That's on path to easily surpass the six heroin deaths for 2015 in Vanderburgh County.
Dr. Jerome Adams, the Indiana State Health Commissioner, also led the panel for state experts discussing drug trends at Monday's event.
Fresh off a speaking spot at the National Prescription Drug Summit in Atlanta, Adams focused mainly on the drug-fueled HIV outbreak in Scott County, Indiana.
"One of the things I was speaking about nationally when I was in Atlanta, was the Scott County HIV outbreak," explained Adams.
" And the same message that I gave nationally, is the same message I'm bringing to Vanderburgh County. There's not a lot that's unique about Scott County. The risk factors exist in many different places. And you need to be aware of what's happening in your community, if you're going to prevent a catastrophe."
Dr. Ward Neff has practiced internal medicine since 1987, and currently works at Deaconess Gateway with in-and-out patient care. Dr. Neff explained at the drug symposium today that he sees people from all walks of life, and drug abuse doesn't have a standard anymore.
"It's not just people who are sleeping in the gutters. It's the people who are in board rooms, physicians, attorneys. They're all using something. Whether it's alcohol or drugs. That's having a different response on them, than it is on other people. The amount that they're using, it can destroy their lives."
Wrapping up the drug symposium, were former addicts who shared their stories.
One wife and mother has been living in recovery since 2006. Another former addict is five years sober of his opioid addiction.
"Drugs aren't one set population, or one set group of people anymore. That's why we had to bring an event like this to Vanderburgh County," explains Prosecutor Nick Hermann.