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Mobile Recovery Unit coming to Michiana to fight opioid epidemic

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SOUTH BEND, Ind. –

Multiple departments are working together to roll out a mobile recovery unit in St. Joseph County that would help fight the opioid epidemic.

The St. Joseph County Health Department says the unit will be in the same type of vehicle it uses for mobile clinics.

Experts say the idea of a mobile unit to fight addiction is all about meeting people where they’re at and helping to get them the treatment they need.

“The science shows it’s going to be one of the most effective programs we use in combatting the opioid epidemic,” said John Gallagher, a professor at IUSB and an addiction therapist.

He calls a mobile unit a timely and innovative approach to the opioid epidemic.

“We’re not going to arrest our way out of this. We’re not going to jail our way out of this. Treatment is what works,” said Gallagher. He says a mobile unit is a holistic form of treatment.

“The three main components of any successful recovery unit is going to be the medical component with physicians and nurses, the therapeutic component… and then also collaboration with law enforcement,” he said.

But the officers involved, he said, aren’t just trying to make arrests.

“The criminal justice system is there in a compassionate way to support people in getting into treatment,” said Gallagher.

The unit would use a heat map to see where first responders have recently used Narcan. That will allow the unit to target areas where opioids are commonly used.

“The heat map is one of the key components that the recovery unit will use to know where we should go,” said Gallagher.

He says sometimes the unit may go to a certain person, or just make itself known in a neighborhood. It also could be out at large events in the community.

Gallagher says a big advantage to adding a unit in Michiana is the ability to reach rural communities.

“We are going to reach communities and serve communities that have historically been underserved,” he said. “I’m very excited about this program. I’m very excited because it’s going to save lives.”

There isn’t a set timeline yet as to when the unit will become active in Michiana. Gallagher says it will serve St. Joseph, Marshall and Elkhart Counties and he says it will hopefully be operating within the next few months.  

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