ERIE, Pa. - Pennsylvania's opioid epidemic hits close to home for Teresa Hoffman. Her granddaughter died of a drug overdose.

“It's just very important to get the word out about how dangerous it is,” Hoffman said.

Cases like those were the center of a forum Thursday on the growing opioid epidemic in our region and across the country.

State narcotics agent Alan McGill worked undercover, cracking down on these cases for years. He asked not to be on camera, but tells Erie News Now there are a number of causes: expensive prescription drugs, cheap illicit drugs, and a lack of accountability everywhere from the doctor's office to even our own medicine cabinets.

State Rep. Ryan Bizzarro (D-Millcreek) is seeing the same thing.

“A lot of these people who we're saving are going back out again and using again, so we need to come up with a more effective strategy,” said Bizzarro, whose office organized the forum.

The opioid epidemic has hit Pennsylvania perhaps the hardest in recent years. A report from the office of U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) released last month shows the crisis cost the commonwealth $54 billion dollars in 2016. Another report found the price tag upwards of more than $500 billion across the United States, in 2015.

One of the things that McGill sees as a growing problem are fake prescriptions, when patients are forging doctor's notes because they are easy to counterfeit

For Hoffman the issue can't be solved quickly enough; it’s about making people aware of the problem, and breaking the stigma so addicts, can get the help they need.

“We need to get more people in the schools to educate the young school children,” she said.