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Schumer calls for first statewide heroin database

WASHINGTON - U.S. Senator Charles Schumer (D, NY) launched a two-pronged plan to combat the rising epidemic of heroin abuse in New York and around the country. 

First, Schumer called on the President’s Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) to establish a detailed framework and implementation plan for New York counties to set up “DrugStat”, a first-ever information-sharing database that would track heroin and other drug-related crimes, overdoses, deaths, hospital admissions and more. This database will allow law enforcement officials to identify patterns, crack down on heroin rings across county lines, target resources to high-crime areas, determine which types of drugs are the most sought after, and determine necessary security changes in drug distribution networks. Schumer is asking the ONDCP to take the lead and provide specific guidance on how interested local law enforcement can begin this process and possible funding routes.

Second, the senator is urging Senate appropriators to increase funding for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Block Grants.  These block grants provide funds to the states to supplement substance abuse prevention and treatment programs, which have a documented need for more funds.  Schumer explained that prevention and treatment programs are a key component of the overall effort to curtail drug use and could save counties, hospitals and taxpayers a huge sum of money in avoided health care costs associated with drug overdoses.

“The victims of heroin use are too often our kids, full of potential, whose lives are altered in an instant by these terrible and addictive drugs,” Schumer said.  “More must be done to curtail the spike in heroin use and other drugs, and rescue more New York residents from the bane of drug addiction.”

Schumer pointed to the rise in Rx drug abuse as one of the prime factors fueling the growth in heroin use, as heroin has become a cheaper, more accessible alternative to prescription narcotics.  According to the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), heroin seizures are up 67% over the past four years and there has been a 59% increase in heroin charges over the same period.  In 2013, the DEA’s New York office seized 144 kilograms of heroin, worth roughly $43 million, which is 20% of the DEA’s nationwide seizures. In Long Island, the past two years have seen the two highest ever recorded totals of heroin deaths – nearly 250 combined in 2012-2013.