RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — It’s been two and a half years since Laurie Pettit says her son, Dawson, an honor roll student and JMU grad, passed away from a heroin overdose.
“The grief is paralyzing,” she said. “To lose a child is the worse thing anyone can imagine.”
Since then, Pettit has used her story to try and help others fight the disease of addiction.
“We need the treatment centers and we need the money to throw at this disease,” Pettit told 8News Reporter Mark Tenia.
“There’s such a fine line between getting high and dying,” said Marjorie Yates, a former opioid addict, now executive director of SAARA Recovery Center.
Yates says there are more people needing treatment than available resources.
“We can’t connect people immediately with treatment unless they have money and good insurance and 99% of the people i see have neither,” Yates said.
This week, congress passed a bill aimed at combating the nationwide heroin and painkiller epidemic. The measure creates grants and other programs to help communities fight the heroin and painkiller epidemic. The president’s budget would give $17 million to Virginia, a state where overdoses now outnumber traffic fatalities.
In Chesterfield alone, there were 102 heroin overdoses last year with 18 fatalities, according to Chesterfield Substance Abuse Free Environment, or SAFE. So far this year there have been 81 overdoses and 12 fatalities.
“If we continue at this pace we will surpass the number of lives lost last year,” said Regina Whitsett with SAFE.
Whitsett says this week’s bill will be a tremendous help in a long fight.
“It’s going to take some time, we didn’t get to this place overnight,” she explained.
“There is help out there, don’t give up,” Pettit added.