It’s a hotspot for heroin, and now even the schools are calling it “an epidemic.”

In South St. Louis County, a group of school districts are working together to combat heroin in the communities they educate.

Hancock Place Middle School hosted the event Wednesday night. Organizers invited speakers — including County Executive Steve Stenger, who lost his nephew to heroin. The school gave parents free drug testing kits, and set up several booths providing educational material about drug addiction, and resources for families seeking help.

“We’re not just going to talk about it. This isn’t just a town hall to have a discussion and give stories,” said Sherry Rischbeiter, a Crisis Counselor in the Hancock Place School District. “It’s time to take action.”

Hancock Place partnered with Lindbergh, Affton, Bayless and Mehlville school districts to make the event happen. They also featured police and speakers who battled addiction themselves.

“And we are seeing that now it is a weekly thing, where a former student has passed away, or a family member of one of our students has passed away. We just keep hearing heroin,” Rischbeiter continued. “So this is now where we have to take action and do something about it.”

In a report published this year by the St. Louis County Department of Public Health, heroin-related deaths have increased in several areas. South County is one of the most problematic.

NewsChannel 5 On Your Side took a closer look at heroin hot spots this spring.

Carol Duff brought her youngest granddaughter, Christal, to the event. The fifth grader watched with wide eyes as volunteers showed her what some drugs look like, and mothers shared stories about their childrens’ overdoses.

“I will remember not to do drugs or it can kill you,” she said.

“We just have to pay attention to the ones we love. Let them know, nothing else is more important,” her grandmother added. She hoped Christal left the event having learned some important lessons.

“People need to know they’re not just hurting themselves when they’re doing drugs. We learned that – what happens to one, it affects another person.”