Sen. Mitch McConnell has his eye on Ky. heroin epidemic

FLORENCE, KY (FOX19) - US Senator Mitch McConnell served as organizer for a 'heroin listening session' which took place at the Northern Kentucky Area Development District in Florence.

Friday's meeting gathered local leaders, health experts, job placement specialists and those affected by the drug.

"I'm the face of a mother of a heroin addict," said Christina Weinel.

It was a Friday morning two years ago when Christina Weinel answered the most horrifying phone call she's ever received. Thirty days after his high school graduation, Weinel's son Justin died from a heroin overdose.

"There was nothing that could prepare me for the inevitable and hearing the words that your son has passed away," said Weinel.

Weinel says she found out about Justin's addiction just four months before his death. She now realizes just how deadly this drug is.

"I think we treat addiction and the way that it manifests itself, like criminal behavior, as merely criminal behavior rather than treating the illness," said Weinel.

Today, Senator Mitch Mcconnell spoke to local community members saying Northern Kentucky is the epicenter of heroin addiction throughout the Commonwealth. The state police crime lab went from more than 450 samples of heroin in 2011 to more than 2300 in just the first nine months of 2013.

Earlier this year, the Kentucky Senate approved a bill that created more treatment beds for drug addicts and lengthened prison sentences for drug traffickers. Weinel says that's a good step, but she says it starts with the support group surrounding the addict.

"Some of the answers do not lie in the suits and ties, it lies within the family unit first," said Weinel.

Weinel is part of different organizations and support groups for those close to this issue, and now she's trying to help other parents from going through similar heartbreak.

"In a dream world we'd love to eradicate addiction, we'd love to pretend it's somebody else's problem, it's not," said Weinel.

Copyright 2014 WXIX. All rights reserved.