Vestavia Hills family discuss son's heroin overdose death in "Help the Hills" program
Over the last six years, at least four Vestavia Hills High School graduates have died during college as a result of drug overdoses. The drugs involved were heroin and other opiates.Now, the community wants to save lives and prevent future drug deaths. A program titled "Help The Hills" had its first meeting Monday night. The goal is to create an open conversation between parents, teachers and community leaders."You have an image in your mind of what a drug addict and alcoholic looks like," said Suzanne Norris. "And that's not always true. It's your neighbor, it's your son. It's your daughter."Rick and Suzanne Norris learned that the hardest way imaginable. Their 22 year old son, Trip, died his senior year at University of Alabama."The night of his death he had been up here performing with a band at a concert," explained Suzanne Norris. "He was the lead singer, and afterwards he had a lot to drink and decided to go get one hit of heroin. And that combination of the alcohol and the heroin peaked at the same time and killed him."Trip was a graduate from Vestavia Hills High. His parents were part of the panel at "Help the Hills," in hopes that their story may prevent another tragedy."My message tonight is that we've got to create an awareness," said Rick Norris. "The way you create an awareness in the community is by creating an atmosphere where your kids are comfortable coming to you and talking about their problems. I don't think I did that.""I think so many people are afraid of gossip and they don't want to talk about these issues among their friends and they want to hide it," added Suzanne Norris. "And that's not going to help the children. We need to be open and honest."The Vestavia Hills School System is also trying to be proactive. Students enrolled in competitive extra-curricular activities are in a pool for random drug tests. "The purpose of that is to give kids a purpose to say no," said David Howard, Director of Administrative Services for the schools. He was also on Monday's panel. His goal is to prevent addictions before they lead to heroin use. "Heroin is really not the focus," said Howard. "It's opiate based pain medication because typically that's the end game is heroin with opiate based pain medications."Throughout the month of September, the group will hold smaller meetings in family's homes.