The Northern Shenandoah Valley has not been spared from the heartbreak and pain that the heroin epidemic is causing around the nation. There have been at least 11 deaths here linked to this hideous addictive drug since the beginning of this year - and folks, it's not going to go away anytime soon.
Law enforcement officials recognize the problem, they're working on it, but seem to be overwhelmed by the volume of heroin making its way to the valley from the Baltimore area.
Northwest Regional Drug Task Force coordinator Jay Perry said last week that area addicts don't know what they're shooting into their bodies.
"They're not getting the same purity levels. One time it will be very impure and they will inject more, then the next time they inject the same amount but it's much more pure," he said.
It's going to take the community, Perry said, to end this crisis. Police and the judicial system can't work alone -- educators, physicians, counselors, family members and the community at large need to be aware of the problem and be a part of the solution.
Shenandoah County Commonwealth's Attorney Amanda Wiseley has announced that the public is invited to three town hall meetings next week to learn about the dangers of heroin. Participating in the meetings will be members of the task force, drug counselors, medical professionals, former addicts or family members of an addict, and members of the Sheriff's Office and Strasburg, New Market, Edinburg, Woodstock, and Mount Jackson police departments.
We encourage residents to attend these meetings, which will be held at 6 p.m. April 14 at Strasburg High School, 6 p.m. April 15 at Central High School, and 6 p.m. April 16 at Stonewall Jackson High School.
Even if this problem has not touched you yet, it could in the near future.