Shining a Light on the Drug Epidemic in Rural Communities

The Midwest has been hit hard by drugs and drug related crimes. In southern Indiana lies Scott County, a county completely devastated by drugs. It’s a small county, but the effects are widespread and crushing. Per Wickstrom has witnessed the toll of drug abuse first hand, and he understands how devastating the collateral damage can be.

Scott County, like hundreds and thousands of counties throughout the Midwest, is a small, poor county in a rural part of the country. They lack access to resources, medical services, and substance abuse and mental health treatment services. However, illicit substances and crime are plentiful and easily accessible. Drugs fuel daily living in Scott County, Indiana.

Substance abuse and addiction are not the only negative consequences of drugs. With drug use comes the spread of disease, sexually transmitted infections, unemployment, and crime. Scott County, Indiana has a population of about 4,000 people and is about 80 miles south of Indianapolis. In just over a year, Scott County’s cases of HIV grew from under 30 to over 190. Drug abuse and HIV are epidemics in Scott County, Indiana. So much so that Indiana’s Governor, Mike Pence, authorized an emergency needle exchange program to be put in place for Scott County Residents. Something had to be one to get the spread of disease under control. Mike Pence, like Per Wickstrom, did what he had to do to address unmet needs facing the people under his authority.

Drugs hit rural communities the hardest because they are cut off from help and effective law enforcement. Drug-related crimes are never prosecuted because they are so rampant and getting it under control Is nearly impossible. But, only nearly. With the help of community leaders like Per Wickstrom, law enforcement is better able to tackle these problems head on, get drugs off the street, and get people the help they so desperately need.