By Joe Mathieu, WBZ NewsRadio 1030

BOSTON (CBS) – There’s a heroin epidemic in this country and it’s not isolated to our cities.

It’s impacting small towns where most people never expect to see a drug like that.

The problem has taken hold in towns from Taunton to Turners Falls.

Officials say the problem is due to heroin’s wide availability which makes it cheaper than prescription painkillers.

That’s why Governor Patrick just declared a public health emergency, citing a 90-percent jump in overdoses between 2000 and 2012. Reports say at least 140 people have died from suspected overdoses in just the past few months.

And it’s numbers like these that have caught the attention of the nation’s top law enforcement officials who came together this week in the nation’s first summit on this issue. The conference was held by the Police Executive Research Forum.

Attorney General Eric Holder told the conference that heroin and other opiate addiction is now killing more people in some small communities than car accidents and violent crime.

Think about that for a moment.

So how do you fix it?

Law enforcement officials at the conference say the most obvious step is equipping first responders with Narcan, which helps to reverse overdoses. It’s already being carried in Massachusetts.

But the longer term challenge is simply making people aware of this problem.

We haven’t had headlines like this since the 1950’s and 60’s and the more people know, the more likely this can be controlled.

Follow Joe on Twitter @joemathieuwbz



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