Bill Scannell wrote that Emmett, 20, was a "caring, funny, smart, young man with the potential for greatness," but that he also struggled with addiction.
"Emmett had been in recovery and sober in Alcoholics Anonymous for 2 years when he went off to college in late August 2014," Scannell wrote in the obituary. "Within 6 weeks, heroin came into his and our lives, stole him from us and Substance Use Disorder killed him in only 18 months."
Scannell explained why it's so important to not stigmatize addiction.
"You see Substance Use Disorder is not something to be ashamed of or hidden," he wrote. "It is a DISEASE that has to be brought out into the light and fought by everyone. It continues to cut down our loved ones everyday."
Scanell told ABC News he wanted to be honest about what happened with his son after seeing how pervasive the opioid epidemic had become in his hometown.
"The substance abuse disorder crisis and heroin epidemic is killing kids almost every day here," said Scanell. "Parents here are afraid to speak out…they say their 22-year-old daughter or son died “unexpectedly.”
Heroin and opioid abuse have been a growing problem nationwide. In Massachusetts alone opioid-related overdoses have jumped to 1,173 in 2014 from 526 in 2010. In February, President Barack Obama proposed devoting $1.1 billion to fight heroin and opioid abuse.
Scannell said his son, a member of the dean's list and a "caring older brother," is an example of how addiction can strike anyone.
"He loved to get to know people, he always fit in." said Scannell. "I just know that he would want me to do this."
The wake for Emmett Scanell is scheduled for this afternoon, but Bill Scannell was already working to raise awareness by speaking at a rally for opioid addiction this morning.