With empty fields where factories used to be and boarded up buildings down Main Street, it is hard to imagine that Madison County, Indiana used to be a hub of the auto Industry.
In the 1970s, General Motors used to employee 20,000 people in the county , but by 2006 all of those jobs were gone and the opioid crisis rolled in.
Keith Gaskill grew up in Madison County, and both of his parents worked at General Motors, but just as the county has changed, so has Keith's role in the community. Today, he is an investigator for the Madison County Drug Task Force.
“I often feel like I’m standing on a beach with a bucket trying to empty the ocean one bucket at a time, and the tide is rolling in. I’ve been doing it for almost 9 years now, and sometimes you make a difference, but most times I don’t feel like I do,” Gaskill said.
He finds the task of conquering the opioid epidemic overwhelming, but there is one arrest he will never forget that gives him hope the work he does makes a difference.
In December 2015, Mike Lusher was staying at a addiction treatment center in Madison County called the House. He had recently been arrested for possession of a syringe and decided to seek help instead of staying in jail.
His addiction had started years earlier after he had broke his back racing motocross. Doctors prescribed him oxycodone, but after about a year he was cut off.
“When they told me I was done, my body said I wasn’t done," Lusher said.
Lusher began buying pain pills illegally on the street, at one point spending $400 to $600 on pills at a time, but his addiction ended up costing him much more when he lost his job and got into legal trouble.
“After the first arrest was when I lost my family. As far as my wife and my two kids. I got arrested that night and the next morning I got bailed out my house was cleaned out, completely cleaned out. And that’s kind of when I started doing worse," Lusher said.
About six months after his first arrest, Lusher started shooting heroin, which is what led him to Gaskill.
“I started getting these connections of all these people that were purchasing their heroin from these people down in Indianapolis from this couple they kept referring to as Frankie and Bee,” Gaskill said.
One of Gaskill’s undercover agents was able to get access to Frankie and Bee, which led to the arrest of 16 people involved in the drug trafficking scheme, including Lusher.
“His gig was he would give this chick rides and he would give free dope out of that. That’s where he got involved," Gaskill said of Lusher involvement in the crime.
It took a few months for Gaskill to track Lusher down and arrest him, and by this time he was staying at the House of Hope.
“At that point, I was just okay with it. I was ready, I was sick and tired of living on the run or looking over my shoulder and just living that lifestyle. Went downtown had an interview with Keith and got escorted back to the county jail for what was my last stay there," Lusher said.
Gaskill interviews a lot of people involved in the drug trade, but his conversation with Lusher is one he will never forget.
“It was one of the most forthright conversations I have ever had with someone involved in that trade and I just, I’ll tell you the truth I almost regretted that I filed on him because I could tell at that point he was probably going to be okay,” Gaskill said.
Lusher ended up getting sentenced 20 years in prison, but because of his success in recovery he is out on probation less than two years later, has a job and is going back to school to become a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist.
His triumph over addiction is not common since 40 to 60 percent of patients treated for drug addiction relapse, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, and it is also one of the only success stories Gaskill has encountered during his career.
Today, the two are friends. They say they do not talk often, but they know whenever they need each other, all they have to do is pick up the phone.
"The guy sitting here, I feel like I made a difference in his life, but he was honestly already heading in that direction," Gaskill said.