Connecticut family torn apart by heroin - Western Mass News - WGGB/WSHM

Connecticut family torn apart by heroin

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The heroin epidemic has hit Connecticut hard with 65 of the state's 169 cities and towns reporting at least one heroin death last year.

There were more than 200 deaths in Connecticut last year.

Parents told Eyewitness News they are trying their best to keep their children close, but in the end, this drug is so powerful, even the smartest of students are falling victim.

"He called us to come get him and said 'can you come pick me up, one of my friends just died in front of me,'" said Andrew Vining, of East Windsor.

Vining said it was a call, out of the blue, that no parent could prepare for.

"We were just in shock, like what happened," Vining said.

A 14-year-old honors student at East Windsor High School was found dead. The horrific way it happened rocking not just this community, but served as a wakeup call for parents around the state. Anyone, at age, can get hooked on heroin.

Vining said his own daughter, who is now a senior at East Windsor High School, has been clean for almost two months after battling an addiction that lasted years. 

"They act like heroin is a cigarette, like it's just as common as a cigarette," Vining said.

Statistics show heroin is sweeping Connecticut communities at an alarming rate. Last year, according to the state's medical examiner, 257 people died from heroin overdoses. That's 47 percent more than in 2012 and this year, the death toll is set to soar even higher than that. 

"Even our own kids have said, 'what's the big deal, it makes you feel good,'" Vining said. "The big deal is that it can kill you."

The reality was never more apparent than on that night. Already desperately fighting to save one child from the deadly grips of the opiate, the Vinings now had another child to save. 

"Like an explosion. Oh my gosh, we didn't know which way to run with it," said Rebekah Vining, of East Windsor

Confronting the problem at home, the Vining family was at a crossroads. They said they were scared to death they would lose their two high schoolers to the drug and the circles of friends caught up in it.

The Vining family pushed for help and forced the community to confront the issue that they felt was being swept under the rug. The Vinings made a point to speak out at board of education meetings and schedule one-on-one meetings with police. 

"The school has been more proactive since then and we've had more contact with the East Windsor police now," Andrew Vining said.

Their day-to-day parenting has also changed. 

"We did more stuff with them, we reached out more and reminded us to do more things as a family and communicate better," Rebekah Vining said

Toeing that fine line of careful parenting, they still make a point to address the tragedy that sparked their crusade. The message is becoming clear to their son. 

"For our oldest son, it became a wakeup call especially when he saw what we've been telling him, that it can kill you," Andrew Vining said.

As for what's next for the Vining family, they said they're looking to remove themselves from the bad influences surrounding their teenagers. They have decided to move south.

While the drug is sweeping the country, more deaths come from it than car crashes. Police have maintained, the problem is more prevalent on the east coast.

If you or someone you know is battling heroin, people can call Narcotics Anonymous at 1-800-627-3543 or visit its website.

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