CLARK COUNTY, Ind. (WDRB) –- Heroin overdoses more than tripled in Clark County from 2015 to 2016.

Now in 2017, the sheriff's office is taking a stand to try and save more lives with a panel discussion and two upcoming public forums.

“It doesn't discriminate. It's an equal opportunity killer,” Sheriff Jamey Noel said. “I don't think most people sitting at home realize what a tragedy this is becoming.”

But that's exactly what the heroin epidemic is -- a tragedy.  

“The problem with heroin is it's extremely addictive -- psychologically and physically addictive -- from the first time you try it,” said Sheriff Noel, who added that other illegal drugs have long-term effects, but heroin can be an almost immediate devastation.

“You can literally overdose and die from the first time you use it,” he said.

Sheriff Noel has an EMS and law enforcement background, and that’s part of the reason why his office is teaming up with local treatment facilities, churches, judges, the prosecutor’s office and other police departments for a panel discussion and public forums on the issue.

“But also you're probably going to hear a little personal stories about people that dealt with addiction, what we're doing to combat it," he said. "It's a group effort. It's all hands on deck."

In 2014, Clark Memorial Hospital saw 49 heroin overdoses. In 2015, that number became 51. And in 2016, it skyrocketed to 182 heroin overdoses.

“Those are not counting coroner cases. We're still compiling all that data," Sheriff Noel said. "So especially a county the size of Clark County, that’s a lot of deaths, a lot of people we're losing way too early."

The informational sessions come as the needle exchange in Clark County is set to begin on Jan. 26. The goal is to prevent the spread of HIV with dirty needles.

“I prefer no needle and them get clean, but in the process, at least they're not using a dirty needle,” Sheriff Noel said.  

He says the fight against heroin doesn't come from a law enforcement standpoint or an economic standpoint, but from a human one.

“We’ve got to try working to break the cycle,” Sheriff Noel said. “The tragedy that it's causing on families of people who are taken way too soon.”

The panel discussion will be held Jan. 23 at 6 p.m. at St. Paul Episcopal in Jeffersonville.

The first public forum will be Jan. 25 at 7 p.m. in the Jeffersonville High School cafeteria. The second forum will be Feb. 2 at 7 p.m. in the Silver Creek High School cafeteria.

Old or unused prescription drugs can also be dropped at the public forums.

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