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Heroin use growing problem among Indiana's Amish

Posted at 11:01 PM, Jun 13, 2016
and last updated 2016-06-14 16:02:42-04

RICHMOND, Ind. -- Amish communities from three Indiana counties met Monday night to talk about a common problem: heroin.

Amish elder Ben Stoltzfus says the problem of opioid addiction hasn't spared his otherwise isolated community.

"It's just slowly creeping in here," he said.

Heroin abuse is at epidemic proportions in East Central Indiana, both in urban Richmond and in rural Wayne County. Pastor Jeff Shafer frequently works with the Amish community, and understands the proactive nature of their desire for drug education.

MAP | Overdose statistics in Indiana counties

"It may surprise people," Shafer said. "But it's a human problem, isn't it?"

In addition to heroin, Wayne County is also dealing with a large outbreak of disease spread through needle-sharing. The statewide average for hepatitis C cases is 69 per 100,000 people. In Wayne County, that number is 179 cases per 100,000 people.

The organization Steered Street is based in New Jersey. But it's founder, Michael DeLeon – a former heroin addict – carries the anti-drug message nationwide. DeLeon will now take his program to Indiana's Amish.

"I just say it was only a matter of time," DeLeon said. "It's going to get worse."

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