HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) - Area community leaders and law enforcement joined forces Wednesday night to educate the public on the heroin epidemic.
In a town hall meeting at Carolina Forest Community Church, those affected by heroin addiction came together to get support.
Bill DeWard, a recovering opiate addict, was one of the speakers Wednesday night. He pointed out the epidemic is not relegated to one particular section of Horry County.
"So many times I think we don't think that substance use disorder affects the folks in Carolina Forest," DeWard said. "We think it's maybe a downtown Myrtle Beach issue. It does exist behind the gated communities and it is affecting the children at our schools, literally every day. We're talking about fifth and sixth graders."
One of the guest speakers was Chris Hocker. He was a heroin addict for about six years. He said he knows the epidemic can't be fixed overnight. But he hopes his testimony showed those who are currently addicted that there is hope.
"There's a way out," Hocker said. "And it's not as hopeless as it may seem right now. There's light at the end of the tunnel, and that recovery is possible."
Horry County continuously ranks higher than any other county in South Carolina when it comes to the percentage of deaths by heroin.
So far this year in Horry County, there have been 17 heroin-related deaths.