CONWAY, SC (WMBF) – Authorities and community members came together Thursday night at Coastal Carolina University to talk about fighting back against the growing heroin epidemic along the Grand Strand.
Many at Thursday's Conway Community Heroin Awareness Forum have seen the loss and the drug first hand.
"I had my first and fortunately only occasion to watch someone put a belt around their arm and stick it in their veins," said Conway Mayor Barbara Blain-Bellamy.
The reality of heroin still impacts Noreen Beck. The anniversary of her son's death from the drug was just last month.
"We all have dreams for our children," Beck said. "No engagement, wedding, grandchildren. It breaks my heart. Something's got to be done. I think there should be stiffer laws for drug dealers, because what happens is, the local drug dealer is working for somebody bigger and that person's going to bond them out of jail fast, so they're not ratted on. So there's got to be stiffer penalties."
Beck hopes the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act will get momentum in Congress and get counties and cities money to fight the disease.
"It's very important not to judge these people because the more you judge them and the more shame and stigma you put on this disease, they won't go for help because they're not going to admit they have a problem," she said.
Authorities said a community-wide effort is needed to battle the disease.
"First of all is at the supply level," said Mike Connelly, a resident agent with the FBI. "Secind is the user level and third of all is at the societal level, the family level. And those have to be going on at the same time and they take totally different tools. You cannot arrest your way out of this problem."