SLIDELL - Detectives in St. Tammany Parish are investigating a death from last week that they suspect is heroin-related.
Authorities say the case is one of a growing number this year, indicating a climb in the drug’s reach and deadly use.
"He came to us and said, ‘I don't think I can do this alone. I need help,’" said Larry Ryan about his son Kevin.
But even though the 23-year-old did get help in rehab, his family says he fell victim to heroin in July. His drug problem, and his death, were a shock to Ryan's family, who says two days before his overdose, the quiet guy his mother called ‘Angel Boy’ had just switched his major at Southeastern and said he was proud of himself for getting back on the right track.
Ryan’s dad said, “People around here, and especially parents, they need to be aware of what exactly is going on."
What authorities say is going on is an increase in heroin possession arrests, heroin overdose scares and 12 confirmed heroin-related deaths across the parish this year to-date. Three of those were in the city limits of Mandeville, six were in Slidell, where Ryan was from. There were eleven total in all of 2012 and that's what Slidell Police Chief Randy Smith says is alarming.
"We want the parents to realize that this is dangerous and we've seen some young adults lose their lives over the experimental stages of heroin," said Smith.
Police attribute the uptick in the drug's presence to prescription pills becoming less available and more expensive. It's something Ryan's family wishes they would have been warned about sooner.
"When he was in rehab, they told him look around the room. A year from now, at least three of ya'll won't be here anymore," said Ryan’s father.
Now Ryan's family wants their loss to be other families' lesson.
Slidell Police say many of the heroin-related deaths have involved young people who had gotten out of rehab within the past six months. Apparently, they tried the drug again, in the same dosage they were taking prior to getting clean.
Ryan's family and friends have started a Facebook page to keep his memory and kindness alive. The page, www.facebook.com/kevinryan.inked.7, is a place for people to post a good deed they have done for someone else, which they've asked that person to pay the good deed forward to another, all in Kevin's name.