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Tippecanoe Co. Forms Drug Overdose Death Research Team

Charlotte Tuggle

Tippecanoe County is one of four in the state selected to start a data-collecting pilot program on drug overdose deaths.

The Tippecanoe County Drug Overdose Fatality Review Team would report to the state health department who is dying from drug overdoses, circumstances surrounding each death and any commonalities between cases.

Deputy Prosecutor Jason Biss says the team’s job is to examine each overdose beyond the autopsy.

“We want to look at other factors – social history, other risk factors, other things that have happened in these individuals’ lives,” Biss says. “So we can get to the root issue here.”

That data would then be used to craft education and prevention strategies.

In 2016, 32 Tippecanoe County residents died of a drug overdose. That’s about 2-percent of the year’s state total.

And Tippecanoe Emergency Ambulance Service Director Darrell Clase says his department has responded to an overdose call, on average, about once every other day this year.

“As of yesterday, we’ve administered Narcan 48 times so far this year,” Clase says. “And we’ve also responded to 24 heroin overdoses so far this year.”

That’s also equivalent to administering naloxone – the overdose-reversal drug – about once a day, though Clase says an individual sometimes needs more than one dose.

The team has until June to collect data, when the pilot program is set to end. Biss says he hopes the initiative will be able to continue their work in a more permanent setting afterward.

The other participating counties are Montgomery, Knox and Vanderburgh.