Epidemic: new report shows heroin use on the rise in Kentucky - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Epidemic: new report shows heroin use on the rise in Kentucky

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Tina Mills lost her 22-year-old daughter to heroin. Tina Mills lost her 22-year-old daughter to heroin.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Kentucky's heroin epidemic is getting worse. 

Numbers released by the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky shows 17 percent of adults now say they have a family member or friend struggling with heroin addiction. Data shows Louisville and northern Kentucky are the hardest hit areas of the state with heroin usage nearly doubling since 2013.

Tina Mills is a mother who watched her daughter struggle and then lose her battle with heroin.  

"You don't hit rock bottom with heroin," Mills said. "You die."

She says her 22-year-old daughter Maegan was introduced to heroin by a boyfriend. Nine months later, she was gone. 

"The takeaway from this report is prevention is critical," said Bonnie Hackbarth with the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky. "We have to address the issues that lead to abuse of substances."  

Kentucky now tops more than 1,200 overdose deaths a year.

"We have to address issues in childhood and early adulthood, and we have to have a mental healthcare system that allows people to get the treatment they need before a drug addiction problem," Hackbarth said.

Mills says it's not easy to spot the warning signs of who might be vulnerable.

"If I was educating parents on little signs to look for, I could go way back to when she was 3-years-old and OCD issues," said Mills, adding that her daughter would say, "That kiss wasn't good enough mommy."

Now, Mills has a purpose behind her pain. After her daughter's death during her junior year of nursing school in 2014, she launched the Butterfly Backpacks non-profit. 

She fills backpacks with essentials and meets with women fighting addiction in treatment centers to tell them about Maegan, her life and her death.

"I wanted them to know somebody cares enough to encourage you, whatever it takes," Mills said. 

Mills doesn't need new numbers to tell her how heroin is spreading.  

"I had a whole group of moms, and we all supported each other with our children, and every single one of our children are dead," she said.

Last summer, Congress approved the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act. It puts $180 million into the heroin fight across the United States, money aimed for prevention programs, treatment and recovery centers, law enforcement and overdose reversal drugs. 

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