BRADENTON (FOX 13) - As community leaders rehashed stories and numbers, Senator Marco Rubio took notes and listened. A row of women in the audience sat waiting for a solution.
"It is tough. You don't expect to lose your children and grandchildren before you," offered Gerri Stanhope, who knows all too well the horrible effects of heroin.
She has lost four family members within a year to the deadly drug.
"You'd like to smack them for using. You'd like to smack the dealers for selling," she continued.
Ten months into this year, there have been 69 deaths and 916 overdoses from heroin in Manatee County.
Deputies are cracking down on dealers. Paramedics now carry a drug to reverse the effects of an overdose, but people continue to die week after week.
"As long as there is a demand, there will be a supply. In my opinion, if we can get the money for rehabs and people on the right track, the demand slows down the dealers will go away," said Stanhope.
Senator Marco Rubio said he plans on taking the issue to the U.S. Senate.
"People have to have access to treatment and treatment that works," he said.
It is an issue that will cost money. Senator Rubio said we need more rehab centers, long-term help for addicts and a better understanding of the problem.
"People who are dependent on these substances should not be treated as criminals. They have a disease. They need to be treated as a disease," he stated.
That is what these women have been saying for a very long time.
"It is sad because it's a waste of human potential a waste of life. And it's embarrassing we are so far behind the curb in terms of programs that can help this people," said Julia Negron.
Now that a United States senator is saying it, they hope more people will hear the message. They also hope Senator Marco Rubio will keep his promise.
"We have got ideas and we are the real stakeholders. We want in and we are ready to help," Negron added.