When the nationwide epidemic of heroin and prescription painkillers first gripped Michiana five years ago, it caught the area ill-prepared, lacking medical services to help people recover from addictions and prevent deadly overdoses.

Since then, a few more clinics have opened, specializing in addiction treatment. Law enforcement and behavioral health workers are coordinating to get people the medicine that can help wean them off heroin and other powerful opioids. And expansions of health care coverage have helped to offset some of the costs.

“I don’t want to paint a rainbows-and-unicorns picture, but we’re in a much better place,” said John Horsley, director of addiction services for Oaklawn, St. Joseph County’s main mental health center. “From two or three years ago, we’re light years from where we were then.”

 But the scourge of opioids, which contributed to 46 deaths in St. Joseph County last year, is far from slowing down, experts warned, and it’s unclear if or when the advances in treatment options will result in a measurable decline in overdoses and deaths.

And the area still lacks enough facilities and medical service providers — from doctors prescribing medication to sober housing to inpatient detoxification centers — to keep up with the rising demand.

“I don’t want to let people think we can just relax, because it’s not over,” Horsley said. “We’ve got to be vigilant.”

Read more at the South Bend Tribune

New treatment options spring up for heroin, opioids but crisis far from over