FARGO, N.D. -

It's an epidemic that's claimed 20 lives in the region in the past year, according to Fargo police.
 
Opiates are addicting, dangerous, and destroying lives.

What do local leaders say needs to be done to fight them?
 
This isn't a problem any one group can solve.


That's why Senator Heidi Heitkamp brought together law enforcement, medical, and education experts to help create a united front against opiate addiction.
 
 
It's a problem so severe, parents are pleading with local leaders.
 
Senator Heitkamp says parents call asking, "Please keep my son or daughter in jail."
 
They hope to see their children alive behind bars, instead of risking death on the streets.
 
"Literally one mistake will kill you," says the senator about the destructive power of opiates.
 
Overdose deaths in North Dakota spiked 125 percent from 2013 to 2014 according to the CDC.


But police admit they can't solve the drug epidemic with handcuffs.
 
"This is something that needs to be addressed throughout a person's life and it has to be addressed throughout the community," says West Fargo Police Chief Mike Reitan.
 
One of the main takeaways from a panel discussion on opiates is that recovery takes more than a four week stint in rehab.


It takes a team.
 
"Counselors and mentors. Employment and housing," explains Reitan.
 
It takes people going public with their struggle.


That's what Nikki Anderson is doing.


She fought through tears, sharing the story of her son, Luke, who died of a fentanyl overdose in March.
 
Anderson says, "I wish I had spoken out earlier. I wish I could have been able to just access the help that I felt I needed that time, that we needed."
 
Senator Heitkamp says people are dying, so we don't have time to sit around and come up with a plan to battle opiate addiction. She says we need action now.
 
She adds, "We don't have the luxury of waiting."
 
Fargo schools are assigning staff members to develop plans to deter students from using drugs.


West Fargo students spoke up when it was discovered fentanyl made its way into local schools.
 
Reitan applauded students who went to teachers, "to let them know of the problem that existed and help locate the individuals that were bringing the poison into their school."
 
It's a constant struggle, and the drugs remain in our community.


But members of this coalition say they're confident they can bring change to the region, and kick opiates out.
 
Health professionals in the area say they're working on bringing more medications in the area to combat opiates, including vivitrol, which they claim doubles the chance someone avoids relapsing.


There are also discussions to potentially bring a long-term rehab facility to the region.