Heroin epidemic hitting families hard

RONKONOMA, New York (WABC) -- If you go by appearances, Jessica McNamara is a friendly, fresh-faced 27-year-old who seems to be the "girl-next-door", but things aren't always what they seem.

Jessica started using heroin when she was just 16.

"I overdosed a lot of times," McNamara said. "Maybe like 8 times that I went to the hospital."

Jessica has been clean for 20 months now, but her mother is not. In fact, for years Jessica couldn't live with her mother. Her grandparents finished raising her in Ronkonoma instead.

Jessica is fighting through recovery, but the mother she loves is still slipping away.

"She's so funny and she's the best, which hurts so much. That drugs make her a monster," she said.

"I said I love you so much. Please come back to me. I say I'll be lost without you. We have a connection. We're like soul mates, but I think I've lost her, really," Diane McNamara, Jessica's grandmother, said with tears in her eyes.

The McNamaras live in a normal house in a community which is hardly on the fringe. That's the case for so many families being torn apart by this drug. It crosses over all socio-economic boundaries.

"I talk to heroin addicts and they're cheerleaders. They're moms and they're businessmen," Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas said.

Here in Nassau County, Singas says they see 2 or 3 overdose deaths per week. The same is true for Suffolk County.

"But I've said all along that we can't arrest our way out of this problem. We have to go to the source. We have to go to the addiction," Singas said.

Nassau County has dedicated $685,000 so far in money seized from criminals to close what's known as the "treatment gap."

"They will go to the emergency room, take these people into their facilities for up to 6 weeks, 7 weeks, however long it takes to find a long term program to put them in," Singas explained.

For Jessica, who now works at a treatment center, it's a life-long commitment.

"So chasing something like this, that's gonna make my life better, is definitely the better choice," she said.

This family also hopes their struggles will be a wake-up call for so many others.

For more information about drug addiction and treatment:

New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services

Long Island Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence

Heroin Prevention Task Force
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