The number of deaths from heroin overdose is rising in Minnesota, and one community in Anoka County is taking a stand after several young lives were claimed by the addictive and dangerous drug.
In October alone, three people with strong ties to East Bethel died. Given the startling and saddening losses, the residents are creating an awareness program.
On Monday night, hundreds of parents and their children attended an educational meeting with a clear message: "Enough is enough." One of the most alarming facts presented to the audience was a disturbing truth -- the drug is being used by children in many metro suburbs.
"He had everything going for him. Smart, good looking, tons of friends -- he had his whole future," Sheri Schmaus told Fox 9 News.
Yet for a year and a half, Jake Schmaus secretly struggled with heroin addiction. On May 22, the addiction won.
"We just know that it can happen to anyone at any time," Sheri Schmaus warned.
Jake Schmaus is one of more than 100 people in the Twin Cities who have overdosed in the last year, including an alarming number of suburban teens.
"We've just seen an increase in heroin the likes of which we've never seen before," confirmed Carol Falkowski, who has been monitoring drug trends in the state of Minnesota for more than 20 years.
According to Falkowski, the number of heroin-related emergency room visits has tripled in less than 10 years.
"It's easy. Make one phone call, drive down to north Minneapolis," Jimmy Mayer explained. "I could get it minutes."
Mayer overdosed just a few weeks after his high school graduation.
"Found him in his room, almost dead, with a needle lying next to him," his mother, Jackie, recalled.
While heroin is relatively new to Minnesota, it's affordable, easy to get, and extremely pure. Unlike other narcotics, heroin has a much higher potential for abuse, addiction and overdose. That's why Falkowski recommends parents keep an eye out for warning signs and talk to their children about drug use early and often.
"It's really our job as parents to help them make the choices that keep them alive," she said.
Minnesota drug use statistics show 40 percent of those admitted to treatment for heroin addiction are between 18 and 25 years old. Next year, a Minnesota legislator who lost her own daughter to a heroin overdose will introduce a bill that would make an overdose antidote more readily available.