LEESBURG, Va. - Officials in Loudoun County are continuing to search for solutions to the heroin crisis impacting young people. Loudoun is just one of several Virginia counties battling the epidemic. On Friday night, parents, students and even recovering addicts met at a community forum.
The emergency meeting comes just weeks after a 17-year-old high school student in Fairfax County died due to a potential heroin overdose.
The goal of this gathering was to get the word out about the perils of heroin addiction and it is a mission that starts with educating parents. The Drug Enforcement Administration Museum and Visitors Center in Leesburg was the setting for this candid discussion about the rising use of heroin.
“I lost my brother a year and a half ago to a drug overdose,” said Erika Potter. “It's important to me that nobody else goes through what my family has been through.”
Her brother, Jayson, was 37 years old when he died.
She said she doesn’t have a solution for this problem, but this meeting is a start.
It was packed room as she was just one of many people impacted by a loved one's drug addiction. The focus was on getting help to the most vulnerable population using heroin – children.
The conversation also focused on rehabilitation as opposed to criminalization.
“I haven't used alcohol or any other drug in over eight years at this point,” said Nick Yacoub.
He is a recovering heroin addict who started using drugs when he was 10 years old. Now, he is helping the state educate students about heroin's dangers.
“Get help,” he said. “I could not do this on my own. I have never met anyone that could.”
In Loudoun County, the number of fatal heroin overdoses increased between 2013 and 2014. However, the county said aggressive programs have caused a decline in fatal overdoses in the last year.