ANDERSON, Ind. -- In Madison County, one could argue that the people are waging a losing war against drugs.
But that isn't stopping the criminal justice system in its fight to reduce the public's dependence on heroin.
The county is the 13th-largest in the state. But it has ranked third for drug overdose deaths 10 years in a row.
Click the map below to see overdose data for all 92 of Indiana's counties:
The inmate population at the Madison County Jail is 240 – 33 inmates over capacity. Many of them are repeat offenders with charges related to their heroin addiction.
We're going to continue to see these problems and we will need, short of a fix, bigger jails, more prisons – and it just snowballs from there," said Madison County Sheriff Scott Mellinger.
For the past four months, Madison County has experimented with an injectable drug called Vivitrol. It reduces a heroin user's cravings, is non-addictive and produces no high. So far, 70 heroin users have been screen for the program. Nineteen offenders remain in treatment, and only two have failed.
"It's kind of a shame that we're in a phase where we have to come up with programs because of things like addiction," said Madison County Chief Probation Officer Tony New. "But if we don't respond, people die."
In just the past three years, nearly 100 Madison County residents have died from drug overdoses. Vivitrol may become one part of fighting the county's addiction to heroin.
"We've been working on a program for Vivitrol to be mandatory for anyone with a heroin arrest as a condition of bond," said Madison County Prosecutor Rodney Cummings.
The county's appetite for heroin and other opiates shows no signs of slowing down. When it became just the second county in the state to implement a needle-exchange program last August, it gave out 500 syringes. In April, that number soared to more than 4,600. And last month, the number skyrocketed to more than 12,000.
"We’re still climbing uphill," said Stephanie Grimes, with the Madison County Health Department. "I feel like we have the right people in place, but we still have a long way to go."
The Madison County Probation Department says on average, Vivitrol has a 60 percent success rate.
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