NEWS-SENTINEL EDITORIAL: Pilot program will expand the fight against addiction

Friday’s launch of a pilot program that will put 71 sober living beds in three locations has been called Allen County’s most ambitious effort to fight substance abuse disorder.

We have praised Allen County’s aggressive efforts in the past to fight drug addiction, especially the epidemic of opioid abuse. It is encouraging to see such a major step forward in that fight. We especially applaud the efforts of a coalition of people in our county who have worked since 2017 to win the pilot program, which includes teaching recovery skills, preventing relapse and improving emotional functions.

The program was among several aspects of a new initiative announced by Fort Wayne Mayor Tom Henry last week to provide $3.86 million in state funding for local organizations and programs focused on neighborhood and quality-of-life improvements. The state of Indiana awarded Allen County a $1.5 million grant for the program, which is being supplemented by locally raised matching funds.

The purpose of sober living beds is to save costly jail space while providing an opportunity to return citizens to their families and to productive lives. Supporters of the program say many of those who are arrested for offenses related to substance use disorder are non-violent offenders who normally respond positively to treatment in conjunction with community-based supervision.

“The scope of the overall drug addiction problem in Allen County is astonishing by any measure,” Allen Superior Court Judge Wendy Davis said at Friday’s ribbon-cutting ceremony at Choices Treatment Centre at 1610 Spy Run Avenue, one of the three new facilities. “These substances are addictive in ways that challenge the best ideas and the strongest individuals – and the resources at our disposal to help them. The 71 beds we’re dedicating today provide an expansive new set of options for those best served by treatment in the justice system.”

Allen Circuit Court, Allen County Community Corrections, Allen County Adult Probation, the Allen County Board of Commissioners, The Lutheran Foundation, Park Center, Redemption House and Shepherd’s House worked collectively for more than two years to bring the project to fruition.

The pilot project for new treatment beds was authorized under Senate Enrolled Act 510, passed during the 2017 session of the Indiana General Assembly. SEA 510 followed a recommendation from the Governor’s Task Force on Drug Enforcement, Treatment & Prevention, on which Judge Davis served.

Forty of the 71 sober living beds will be provided at Choices – 20 for low-intensity residential services and 20 for male recovery – while 15 new beds, serving both men and women, will be located at Park Center on Carew Street and 16 female recovery residence beds will be at the new Redemption House facility on East Wayne Street.

Judge Davis said Allen County was chosen as the site of the SEA 510 pilot project due to the robust infrastructure within the Allen County criminal justice system, including alternative sentencing programs and problem-solving courts.

We are proud that Allen County has led the way in these efforts, and we echo the Allen County Board of Commissioners, who said Friday that the addiction crisis demands a localized, community response such as the sober living beds pilot program through which those with substance abuse disorder will be connected with services that can help them recover and return to productive lives.