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Heroin and opioid awareness summit in Cherokee

The U.S Attorney's Office for Western North Carolina is partnering with tribal leaders to address the drug problem, often leading to overdose deaths in Cherokee and surrounding areas. (Photo credit: WLOS staff)

CHEROKEE, N.C. -- Fighting heroin and prescription pill abuse will take a combined effort. That was the message at an awareness summit in Cherokee Monday.

The U.S Attorney's Office for Western North Carolina is partnering with tribal leaders to address the drug problem, often leading to overdose deaths in Cherokee and surrounding areas.

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“We take this fight head on to the dealers who have brought this poison to our homes,” Principal Chief Patrick Lambert said.

U.S. Attorney Jill Westmoreland Rose said solutions must come, not just from law enforcement, but also from prevention and treatment efforts.

“We can't arrest our way out of this issue,” she said. “So, we have to bring together the community. We have to talk to the medical professionals and talk to them about prescribing practices.”

Rose said there must be prevention efforts and better education, a sharing of ideas, taking stigmas off of addicts to find meaningful conversation and solutions to an issue that touches on mental health, too.

“We need to think much bigger and broader than we ever have,” she said.

Kathy Burgess lost her son to an overdose earlier this year. “If we can just save a life and help our community get rid of the drugs here, that's my fight,” she said.

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