Progress Shown In Fight Against Heroin Epidemic

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CLAYTON, MO (KTVI)-- The danger has not gone away but there are some encouraging numbers when it comes to heroin abuse in the St. Louis area.

St. Louis County Police chief Tim Fitch says at this time last year there were 24 heroin-related deaths in St. Louis County and this year there have been eight.

He also says his investigators have found a heroin connection in every St. Louis County high school where there has been an investigation.

He hopes the effort to educate will pay dividends.

"Possibly all the prevention and public awareness efforts that we and others have put into this in the last year are starting to make a difference," said Dan Duncan, NCADA spokesman.

He warned it's too early to get excited about the news, but other agencies show similar signs.

Harris House is a treatment facility in St. Louis and its program director has seen a drop in the number of heroin cases. "I think these town hall meetings and all this publicity regarding the heroin addiction is having an impact," said Wes Tobin.

Duncan says heroin has taken nearly 500 lives in the St. Louis area in just the past two years.  The NCADA held a town hall forum on heroin at Clayton High School on Monday.

He told the audience that one way to stop a heroin addiction before it ever starts is to lock up the medicine cabinet at home.  He says many heroin users start their addiction by taking prescription pain killers.

He also says parents need to know where their kids are and maintain a relationship even when it's difficult.

Tobin says the Harris House helps addicts by removing them from their environment.  He believes that's the most effective form of treatment, even though there are medications available, "We believe that if you can take the person out of the environment it takes away the triggers, the obsessions, the cravings for heroin."

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