Indiana University Bloomington

Indiana Prevention Resource Center (IPRC)

IPRC Provides Assistance to Elkhart County’s Prevention Efforts

When President Obama visited Elkhart, Indiana for a town hall meeting on February 9, 2009 he found a county with the worst unemployment rate in the country. Unemployment, stress, and despair can lead to a host of problems, including problem drinking and substance abuse. Long-term unemployment is associated with depression and with frequent intoxication.

Elkhart, Indiana is the largest trailer and recreational vehicle manufacturing center. The national recession and the rise in gasoline prices have badly hurt the recreational vehicle, trailer, and manufactured homes industries.

The state FSSA’s Division of Mental Health and Addiction served over 2,000 adults and children in fiscal year 2007 with chronic addictions (including gambling) and serious mental illnesses. In December, 2008, the unemployment rate for Elkhart County was 15.3%, an increase from the previous month’s rate of 12.4%, and almost quadrupling the rate from the previous year’s 4.7% unemployment rate. The Bureau of Labor Statistics gives the national unemployment rate for January, 2009 as 7.6% and Indiana’s rate higher, at 8.2%.

The current population is of Elkhart County 86.2% White, 13.1% Hispanic, and 6.3% African-American, with smaller numbers of Native Americans (0.7%) and Asians or Asian-Americans (1.4%).

Minorities in Elkhart County suffer disparities as do minorities elsewhere in Indiana and the nation. Asian and Pacific Islanders, African-American, and Hispanic/Latino populations all exhibit higher rates of negative birth-related complications (viz., low birth weight babies, early preterm birth, smoking or using alcohol while pregnant, and lack of prenatal care). African-Americans in Elkhart have a higher age-related death rate than in other parts of Indiana with the leading cause of death being heart disease.

Elkhart County has not been spared methamphetamine trafficking from Mexican drug cartel sources. Law enforcement officers recently discovered an Elkhart dealer with a package of methamphetamine in his home with a street value of $1.8 million dollars. Two twin sisters who taught in the Elkhart community school system were recently arrested for selling methamphetamine within 1,000 feet of a South Bend elementary school.

Depressed economic circumstances, addiction, and interdiction of methamphetamine trafficking from Mexico are contributing factors to increasing numbers of methamphetamine-making operations being found in the county. The State Police indicate that more meth cookers are using the “one pot” method, which requires small containers, such as two liter soda bottles and not complicated chemical apparatuses.

The IPRC recently awarded the Elkhart County Drug-Free Partnership a Needs Assessment and Planning Grant to help the Partnership better understand the prevention needs of their community and make informed decisions as to where to concentrate their efforts. The Partnership is a vibrant group of youth-serving, elder-serving, mental health, working person assisting, faith-based, county government, medical, and other public and private agencies located in the communities of Goshen, Elkhart, Nappanee, and Bristol. Many of the partners in Goshen are within close physical proximity which will make collaboration and organizing less difficult. Analyzing public and private health, criminal justice, and statistical information, the IPRC will help the Partnership plan fund allocation and effective substance abuse prevention programs. The many talents of members of the Partnership will combine to form a critical mass of expertise and assistance to their fellow community members.

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By Carole Nowicke,   3/18/2009