HOPEWELL, VA (WWBT) - In just the past eight years, there has been more than a 200 percent increase in the number of heroin-related deaths throughout the commonwealth. That's according to Virginia State Police, which has formed a task force to control what's now being considered an epidemic.
Hopewell neighbors are uniting to beat the problem before it beats them. In the serenity of Crystal Lake, Hopewell neighbors hope to fill the park with a community that cares.
"It's hitting our hometown. It's killing our children," said Glenda Hix. "Children my son went to school with, they've lost their lives at a very young age. They've left children behind."
A close family member of hers is also struggling with heroin use.
"If anyone thinks it's not going to be their child next or someone that they know, they're wrong," she explained.
Just this year alone, Hopewell Police have responded to ten heroin overdoses. In three of those cases, the users died. That's just the cases officers know about.
"A lot of times we have people go to the hospital and they're suffering from [an] overdose, and we never get a call," said Capt. Mike Whittington.
It's why he's glad to see the community joining police to fight back.
"I've worked narcotics in the past and during the cocaine times, and I've never seen a drug and the effects it has on a community, on a person, on families. I've never seen a drug so dangerous as this heroin," Whittington added.
Fliers are now circulating across the tri-cities, encouraging neighbors to show up in numbers Wednesday to demand more resources for fighting the epidemic and support recovering addicts.
"You can bring them in for 24 hours or a couple of days and give them what they need but then you put them right back on the street, you're not healing the wound. You're just putting a little band aid over it," said organizer Terri Lovin.
The goal is to unite now to save lives later.
"I've watched too many acquaintances bury their children," Hix added.
Wednesday's event will be the first of its kind locally, but organizers are hoping it will gain momentum so they can keep it going in the future. It will be held at Crystal Lake Park in Hopewell from 6 p.m to 8:30 p.m. Wednesday. The community will hear from those who struggled with heroin use. There will also be a balloon release for those who succumbed to their addiction.
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