One group in Anne Arundel County is heading inside the classroom trying to start the conversation about heroin addiction.
The county's health department started a program called 'Not My Child' aimed at educating parents and students about substance abuse and the dangers it can bring.
"There is a point where you're so low, it's like hell on Earth," Jenn Schultz, a recovering addict who's on the 'Not My Child' panel, said.
ABC2 News digs deeper into the heroin crisis gripping our region at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 22.
The amount of overdoses and deaths--all from heroin--have skyrocketed in the county. Here in Maryland, heroin addiction has been called an epidemic.
"The community needs to do a little shifting and open up a little bit and realize how difficult this disease is. It can, in an instant, ruin the rest of your life, the rest of your family. Holidays are never the same. Birthdays are never the same," Sandy Smolnicky, a parent of two children battling heroin addiction, said.
Four ladies are fighting to end the increase of addiction in Anne Arundel County.
"We can't have that denial piece at this point. It is happening and so we need to open the conversation up to the community," Mandy Larkins, an employee at the Anne Arundel Medical Center's Pathways Treatment Center, said.
Jen, Jenn, Sandy and Mandy are just a few of the people who are on a speaking panel for 'Not My Child," a program with the county's health department geared towards fighting back against heroin.
"Having that conversation at the dinner table or when they come home from school or after a sporting event, just start having the conversation day in and day out with your child about substance use," Jen Corbin, the director for Anne Arundel County's Crisis Response team, said.
All of the women know, work with, or have seen the effects heroin has on families--in some cases first hand.
"You want to stop so bad, but you can't. I didn't want to go out and I didn't want those drugs, but I couldn't stop. I couldn't stop," Schultz said.
But she did--and Schultz said her experiences help bridge the gap when she's speaking in schools.
"I just want to let young people know that you can stop it before it gets to that point. You can arrest your addiction," she said.
The group travels to schools across the county, telling students about the dangers of substance use and abuse.
"Addiction cannot be beaten. It's just not a disease that ever is beaten. It's a disease that you constantly fight every day," Schultz said.
All four women are pleading for people to be proactive.
"Call now before there's an overdose. We don't have to wait to until someone has almost lost their life to help them," Corbin said.
It's help dozens, if not hundreds, of people in the county need, and the group is hoping parents get active and say not my child.
"This is not a joke. Your life is not a joke because you could be that child in the casket whose mother is crying over them," Schultz said.
The group plans to continue speaking at schools in the county again beginning on Jan. 4. Those interested in more information about the 'Not My Child' program can call them at 410-222-1527.