Local officials are concerned about an increase in heroin related fatalities. In 2013, there were 257 heroin-related deaths in Connecticut and already 2014 fatalities have reached 70% of last year's total.
"Between 2012 and 2014, there were 187 EMS transports due to opiate overdose. 157 of those were in Norwalk alone and the majority of those were heroin or oxycodone, which is the active narcotic found in percocet," said Norwalk Hospital emergency medicine specialist Dr. Ari Perkins.
On Tuesday afternoon, the Mid-Fairfield Substance Abuse Coalition brought local officials together to discuss the rise of both heroin and prescription drug use and ways the community can take action.
Norwalk Police Chief Thomas Kulhawik said, "This is a drug problem but it's really a public health crisis. It's a community crisis that has to be addressed by all of us. By the parents, by the schools, by all aspects of our community."
"We see a homeless guy on the street doing heroin. We see a guy in a suit, gets off the train at 7 o'clock, goes and buys bags of heroin. When I say it's all walks of life, it's almost unbelievable," said Officer Mark Suda of Norwalk Police Department's Special Services Division.
Those in attendance say getting the message to kids about the dangers of these drugs is critical.
Pastor Oscar Destruge of El Camino United Methodist Church in Norwalk said, "Children are the ones who are aware of what all their friends are doing. They need to feel empowered that they are not being a rat, they are actually saving lives."
Barry Halpin, Liberation Programs Family & Youth Options Prevention Specialist added, "The power of kids helping kids, because they rather talk to each other than us, no matter how aware, cool or hip we think we are, there is something to be said about kids understanding each other's worlds a lot better."
The coalition has created postcards for all 4 of the towns they cover, highlighting the dangers of prescription drug use and the actions parents can take.
"This is a community issue. The Mid-Fairfield Substance Abuse Coalition covers four towns, Norwalk, Weston, Wilton and Westport. It doesn't even stop with us. This is major, this is huge, this is Connecticut, this is nationwide," said Tracey George, Director of the Mid-Fairfield Substance Abuse Coalition.
For more information about the Mid-Fairfield Substance Abuse Coalition, visit www.hscct.org.