FORSYTH COUNTY, Ga. - Like much of the country, Forsyth County is plagued by heroin. But Tuesday night, hundreds turned out to tackle the issue head on at the semi-annual Forsyth County Drug Summit. It comes in the heels of a couple of heroin overdose deaths in the last few days.
"The people that you use with are not your friends. Addicts and active addiction are always self-serving, they don't care about anyone but themselves," Victoria Torres told the overflow crowd at the Events Center at City Park in Cumming.
She said she was one of the fortunate ones, telling the crowd of life or death struggles with addiction, of being jailed for meth, of still wearing an ankle bracelet and of moving forward with support from family and loved ones.
"If people could understand that we do drugs because there's an underlying issue we are trying to treat, that it would take the stigma away," said Torres.
Forsyth County Sheriff Ron Freeman addressed the crowd from a law enforcement perspective.
"There's only one entity that can do something about the drug dealers and that's the men and women that wear a badge," said Sheriff Freeman.
The sheriff did not hold back when talking about punishing the pusher, but two heroin overdose deaths this past weekend in Forsyth County also led him to talk about intervention and recovery, even at the youngest ages.
"We just put school resource officers starting in our elementary schools. Do we have a drug problem in our elementary schools? No we don't here, but it's an opportunity for us to get to the kids and help them make better decisions," said the sheriff.
At a table loaded with paraphernalia like marijuana bongs, heroin syringes and more, parents were told of the ins and outs of drug abuse. Something too familiar for Patti Huxford whose adult son is recovering at a court ordered residential treatment center. She was among the nonprofits and community organizations and deputies to provide support and resources for people looking for to break the addiction cycle.
"It's hard when it first starts to say your child is an addict. I say it everywhere now because I think I can help but my son is still alive," said Huxford.
Part of the summit was paid for with Forsyth County money designated toward intervention programs.
"If we could help them get back on track again, anytime we can get a citizen to be a positive part of society, a few dollars is a cheap price to pay," said Forsyth County Commission Chairman Todd Levent.