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Complaint says Indianapolis golf course didn't clean up racist carvings

Two months after news reports about a swastika and racist slur that were carved into the eighth green at Smock Golf Course, Charles Blackwell went with some of his friends to play a round in January and was shocked to see the same carvings still there.

Blackwell, 70, said he didn't know about the carvings — the words "f--n------," along with the swastika — before going and wouldn't have gone if he did. A friend later told him they had been there for at least a couple of months. Blackwell filed a complaint in July with the Indianapolis Office of Equal Opportunity, which referred the case to the Indiana Civil Rights Commission.

"I can't explain to you the feelings that you have when

you see this and you're a person of color," he said in an interview. "And then when you find out it's been there for two months, come on, man. Are you serious? They couldn't do anything?"

Reached by phone, an employee said they didn't "have anything to say about that" and directed the Recorder to contact the course's director, Ken Washam, who directed the Recorder to Indy Parks, which operates the public course.

In a statement, Indy Parks spokesperson Ronnetta Spalding said Washam was notified in "late October" about the racist carvings. Washam put sand over the area, but it eventually settled into the ground or washed away by January. The grounds crew removed pieces of the green during the first week of January, according to the statement. Blackwell was at the golf course Jan. 6, which was a Sunday.

"Indy Parks will not accept any action or activity that goes against welcoming people into our parks and will continue working closely with our park rangers and partners at [Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department] to ensure the safety and security of all of our guests," the statement read.

Anyone with information about the incident should call 311 or 317-327-3811.

In the complaint, Blackwell says employees at Smock didn't warn them that the racist symbol and words were carved into the green. He said that's the least they could have done, and he likely would have just not played there that day.

"We have a right to enjoy golf courses," the complaint reads, "free of racial bigotry in Indianapolis."

Blackwell said there were some simple solutions, aside from fixing the green, that could have helped. Those included closing the green and setting up a temporary one so nobody would have to see the carvings. Blackwell and his friends were at Smock because they bought discount cards to get a couple of rounds of golf at different courses, so they just had to pay $18 to rent golf carts. He said he didn't ask for his money back when they went to the clubhouse to complain.

"That's what upset me more than anything," Blackwell said. "They took my money. They gave me no indication that there was anything like this on the course. They made no mention of it at all."

Contact staff writer Tyler Fenwick at 317-762-7853. Follow him on Twitter @Ty_Fenwick.


Study discovers decrease in Marion County opioids deaths

A recent study from the Indiana University Public Policy Institute showed a decrease of accidental opioids overdose deaths in Marion County from 2017 to 2018. While the study shows progress in federal, state, county and citywide efforts to combat the opioids crisis, it also displays areas where the

crisis worsened.

Marion County's accidental fatal opioids overdoses fell 11%, from 406 in 2017 to 361 in 2018. However, in 2018 opioids were still present in 78% of Marion County's fatal overdose victims.

The largest declines in opioids-related death are from prescriptions, which dropped 25%, and heroin, which dropped 14%. This marks the first year opioids deaths in Marion County decreased since the IU Public Policy institute began tracking the numbers in 2010.

Phillip Huynh, a program analyst at the IU Public Policy Institute, was slow to attribute the drop in deaths to anything other than increased availability of naloxone, not a drop in opioids use. Police officers and emergency medical technicians (EMTs) now carry the life-saving drug, which is administered during an opioids overdose. However, people don't need to be first responders to get naloxone. The Marion County Health Department provides one to two bottles of naloxone to anyone who takes a free one-hour training course on how to use the medicine. The classes are essential for anyone with a loved one using opioids, Dr. Virginia Caine, director of the Marion County Health Department, said.

"Naloxone is the only thing that I would say for sure is a significant contributing factor why these deaths are down," Huynh said. "For everything else, we are still researching."

In addition to more naloxone availability, Caine credits new regulations aimed at helping reduce the amount of opioids doctors prescribe. For example, the state passed a law this year stating every opioids provider in Indiana must have two hours of training in addiction treatment. Doctors who don't take the course can't prescribe the pain medication. The theory is doctors who take this training are less likely to overprescribe opioids, which can lead to fewer patients addicted to the drug.

"In the old days if you had knee surgery [providers] might give you two weeks of pain medications," Caine said. "People would get addicted from that pain medication. Now they're really trying to measure from a physiological standpoint just how many days you really need versus being so generous with giving lots of pain medication."

Even though opioids deaths fell overall, overdose deaths from fentanyl increased 5%. The synthetic drug was present — even if it wasn't the cause — in 54% of opioids deaths in Marion County in 2018, an increase from 46% in 2017. Overdose rates increased for fentanyl because the drug often is mixed into other drugs for a greater high. According to Caine, drug users often underestimate the strength of fentanyl and accidently mix in a fatal amount.

"We like to refer to this as the 'waves' of the opioids epidemic," Huynh said. It started off with prescription, and then prescription dropped. And then heroin increased, and then heroin slightly dropped, and then fentanyl increased. We are currently still in that fentanyl wave."

While Huynh and Caine noted the wane in opioids deaths, both emphasize there's still work to do. To further combat the opioids crisis, the Marion County Health Department plans to partner with new organizations such as churches, sororities, fraternities and business networking groups to spread awareness about the opioids crisis and the availability of naloxone.

"[The crisis] is definitely going to increase if we don't do anything about it, if we don't put any resources toward it," Caine said. "This is not a problem that is going away."

Contact staff writer Ben Lashar at 317-762-7848. Follow him on Twitter @BenjaminLashar.

The Marion County Health Department's naloxone training

For free naloxone and training for using it to prevent a fatal opioids overdose, call the health department's Substance Use Outreach Services Program at 317-221-4628.


Rep. Carson hosting 10th annual job fair

Congressman Andre Carson will host the 10th annual Central Indiana Job Fair 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Aug. 8 at Ivy Tech Culinary and Conference Center, 2820 N. Meridian St. The event is open to Ivy Tech students, alumni and the general public.

There were 122 employers set to attend as of Aug. 5. Last year there were more than 150 employers and 500 job seekers. This

year's employers include 84 Lumber Company, Boys and Girls Club of Indianapolis, Indianapolis Housing Agency and Lowe's. Visit ivytech.edu to see the complete list of employers.

In a statement to the Recorder, Carson said he's thankful that the unemployment rate is lower now than it was when the job fair started in 2010, but he noted there are still plenty of people who are unemployed, underemployed or looking to change careers.

"For a decade now, it has truly been an honor to put on this helpful event that connects qualified job seekers with some of the top employers in our region," he said. "... With around 130 employers planning to be at this year's event, folks are sure to find a wide array of great opportunities to give their careers a boost."

The unemployment rate in Indianapolis in 2010 was about 10%, but the latest numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show unemployment at 3.1%.

Contact staff writer Tyler Fenwick at 317-762-7853. Follow him on Twitter @Ty_Fenwick.

CENTRAL INDIANA JOB FAIR

The 10th annual Central Indiana Job Fair, hosted by Rep. Andre Carson, will feature more than 120 employers.

When: 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Aug. 8

Where: Ivy Tech Culinary and Conference Center, 2820 N. Meridian St.

Cost: Free and open to anyone