Help for Sullivan’s opioid crisis

By LIAM MAYO
Posted 4/19/22

MONTICELLO, NY — Even as the COVID-19 pandemic has come and (hopefully) gone in Sullivan County, the opioid epidemic has continued to take its toll.

On April 18, Sen. Chuck Schumer held a …

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Help for Sullivan’s opioid crisis

Posted

MONTICELLO, NY — Even as the COVID-19 pandemic has come and (hopefully) gone in Sullivan County, the opioid epidemic has continued to take its toll.

On April 18, Sen. Chuck Schumer held a conference at Catholic Charities in Monticello to announce a two-pronged plan to help combat that epidemic.

Schumer called for an additional $3.2 million in funding in the upcoming federal budget to support evidence-based prevention, treatment and addiction recovery services. Closer to home, Schumer called upon the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) to immediately approve Sullivan County’s application to become a High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area, unlocking funding, resources and cooperation to address Sullivan County’s opioid issues.

Federal drug trafficking designation

The opioid crisis has had an oppressive impact on the population of Sullivan County.

Sullivan County had 39.8 opioid overdose deaths per 100,000 population in 2019, compared to 16.1 statewide (excluding New York City). According to the Sullivan County coroners’ office, the picture since then has been no brighter, with 41 overdose fatalities in 2020 representing 34 percent of cases in the county.

Twenty percent of deaths in the county the previous month were attributable to overdoses, and “that’s a frightening, tragic statistic,” said Schumer; Sullivan County has the highest overdose death rate in all of New York.

With cases high, Sullivan County applied to be considered a High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) in March of 2021.

The HIDTA program was created in 1988 to coordinate and assist federal, state, local and tribal authorities in disrupting the sale and distribution of illegal drugs in areas where drug use is at high levels. It allows for intelligence sharing between levels, letting the long arm of the federal government reach down to the local level, said Schumer, and provides funding for law enforcement agents and overdose prevention methods.

Every county in the Hudson Valley region is designated a HIDTA county—except Sullivan.

District Attorney Meagan Galligan submitted Sullivan County’s HIDTA application in 2021, seeking federal recognition that increased funding is necessary to respond to the areas and seeking a dedicated Sullivan County crime analyst at the Hudson Valley Crime Analysis Center.

That application was denied.

“We cannot do this alone,” said Galligan, speaking at the April 18 conference. “We need resources, including from our federal partners.”

Schumer advocated for the application to be accepted in a letter to the director of ONDCP. “Sullivan County and its major transportation routes… have a well-documented history of drug related arrests. However, despite these alarming statistics, Sullivan County is the only county in the entire Hudson Valley region without a HIDTA designation.” He will as well be putting his clout as majority leader behind the request, he said.

County representatives applauded Schumer’s announcement.

“It’s so wonderful to have support from key leaders around the state,” said John Liddle, commissioner of the Sullivan County’s Health and Human Services Division. We are going to end the opioid crisis, he said; we are building up our communities.

“This is a tremendous, tremendous issue, and we need help from everyone who is willing to give us help,” said Senator Mike Martucci.

“HIDTA is a firewall, and we have a fire we need to put out,” said Schumer.

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