Gary woman creates organization aimed at nixing surge of overdose deaths in Region

Overdose deaths are up dramatically this year in Northwest Indiana, alarming local authorities and prompting one Region woman to take matters into her own hands. As of July 10, Lake County has recorded 121 overdose deaths, compared to 92 at the same time last year, according to Coroner Merrilee Frey.

And in neighboring Porter County, Coroner Cyndi Dykes said the overdose trends there were fairly consistent in 2020 compared to last year — up until June, when the county experienced a spike. Porter County recorded 17 overdose deaths through June of this year, whereas Dykes’ office recorded nine overdose deaths in the first half of 2019.

Opioid-related deaths in 2020 also are up in Cook County, with 773 deaths recorded between Jan. 1 and July 13, as opposed to 605 during the same period in 2019, according to The Associated Press.

This year’s spike in the Region is so alarming, it prompted Kristen Martin, a 30-year-old social worker from Gary, to create her own organization aimed at spreading awareness about addiction, recovery and the overdose-reversal drug naloxone. The drug is commonly sold under the brand name Narcan.

Martin, a person in recovery, said she created the group after her friend died from an overdose two months ago.

She said the people in her friend’s company were not aware of Indiana’s Good Samaritan Law — which protects a person from criminal and civil liability if they administer naloxone to an overdosing person, call 911 and cooperate with law enforcement.

The law states that a person who comes upon the scene of an emergency or accident and who “in good faith, gratuitously renders emergency care … is immune from civil liability” if the other person dies or is injured as a result.

“People need to know if you call for help, you will be protected,” Martin said.

Martin, who hails from Calumet Township and now lives in Gary’s Miller Beach section, said she became hooked on painkillers at a young age after back surgery, and that physical dependence evolved and lasted years.

“I got clean a couple of years ago, but I can’t say the same for the loved ones I grew up with. I’ve lost so many people to overdoses,” she said.