Heroin epidemic targeted by NYS Senate

By Matt Porter

March 21, 2014 Updated Mar 21, 2014 at 6:38 PM EDT

(WBNG Binghamton) Heroin use has doubled in the United States, and in New York from 2007 to 2012. Lawmakers say the state is falling behind in the battle against the street drug.

"It's life destroying," said Republican state senator James Seward. "It destroys families, communities, and we need to take some strong action here."

Seward joins a select group of senators for a new heroin task force which will be responsible for finding ways to help the state and local municipalities fight the epidemic.

Despite the federal Drug Enforcement Administration seizing $43 million in Heroin in New York in four years, Seward said the state is fighting an uphill battle.

"The increased use of heroin has been dramatic and very disturbing," Seward said. "It is really stretching healthcare dollars and law enforcement resources."

Already, the senate has proposed $5 million in its budget to help treatment programs and increasing penalties for people caught dealing drugs.

The measure would make holding 50 or more individual packets of Heroin, or at least $300 worth of the drug as a class B felony.

Last October, the state's new I-STOP program took effect providing an online registry to monitor the distribution of prescription drugs.

The program has been successful in limiting prescription drug abuse, but has produced an unintended side effect for heroin use.

"As that has gone down, we've seen this dramatic increase in the use of heroin which is cheap now and highly addictive," Seward said.

Delaware County is forming its own heroin task force.

Delaware County Undersheriff Craig DuMond said it's going to take all departments working together to slow down the drugs on the streets.

"We're not going to arrest our way out of this problem," DuMond said. "It's a problem bigger than what law enforcement is going to be able to solve."

The new task force in Albany includes members of several subcommittees from Alcoholism and Drug Abuse to Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities.

Together, the group of senators hope they can attack the problem from all sides.

The new task force will organize meetings across the state where they will hold informal hearings on the subject.

Individuals from health care services, law enforcement, and other social service organizations will be invited to provide expert testimony.