BURLINGTON -- Alamance County Sheriff Terry Johnson says opioid overdoses are a serious issue. In Alamance County alone, there were 293 overdose saves and 19 deaths between Jan. 1 and Oct. 1 this year.

"We've had one person that has been brought back six times from overdose, and you ask yourself, 'My goodness one time should be enough for someone to learn,' but the addiction overtakes the human body," said Johnson.  

From 1999 to 2016 more than 12,000 North Carolinians died from opioid-related overdoses. Emergency room physician James McShane said this epidemic is devastating families and communities.

"Not only do we see the tragedy of people who are coming in who are young and who otherwise would be healthy are dead or dying from something that unfortunately I think in a better world would be preventable, and we are also seeing those families having to stand by their loved ones,” said McShane.

McShane, along with dozens of other medical professionals, law enforcement officers and community leaders came together Friday, to address the growing drug issue.

"We need to get to the root causes," said Alamance County Commissioner Bob Byrd.  

During the forum, Byrd and others worked to elevate awareness, educate the community, discuss cause and effect, and brain storm prevention and treatment options.

"We have people that need help and we've got to figure out what we can one, do to address their needs and two, how to address those individuals who are praying on those victims," Johnson.

Johnson said he'd like to see harsher prosecution for drug dealers.

"I don't want to see people go to prison but if you know what the law is and you are praying on people you need to be ready to stand ready to take the consequences for your actions."

Opioid forums are being held in counties across the state. The next one is schedule for Feb. 27 in Durham.