COLUMBUS (WCMH) — The heroin epidemic continues to plague Central Ohio, according to officials with OhioHealth and the Columbus Metropolitan Club. Wednesday afternoon, a panel of experts met to discuss how devastating heroin can be on families, people, and the community.

Also in attendance was Anna Maria Perales-Lang, a mother who lost her son to an overdose. Perales-Lang said she felt it was important to come to the panel, in hopes of saving another family from the pain she felt the moment she found out she’d never see her son alive.

Two years ago, she lost her 26-year-old son right as her family thought he could kick the habit.

“How does a person get to a point where they’re doing well and take one step back and that step kills them?” She asked. “We thought, ‘What could we have done differently if I could go back in time?’ All I’ve learned being on the task force is there were a lot of signs that we didn’t pay attention to.”

Tia Moretti with the Franklin County Coroner’s office says she’s seen far too many overdoses.

“What can we do?” she said. “How can we work together as a community and look at what programs, what interventions, and what’s available for the family and that person suffering from substance abuse disorder to prevent these deaths?”

She says the first step to fixing the problem is acknowledging there is one.

It’s something Perales-Lang says she wishes she would have done.

“Here’s the thing, he lived a secret life,” she said. “And that’s the number one thing that I really need people to understand, that you really got to pay attention. You can’t just hear what you want to hear.”

Featured panelists included Teresa Long, health commissioner for City of Columbus; Anahi Ortiz, Franklin County Coroner; James Davis, assistant chief for the Columbus Division of Fire; and Delaney Smith, medical director for the Alcohol, Drug and Mental Health Board of Franklin County (ADAMH).