$100M Needed to Fight Heroin Scourge, Says Schumer

Oxycontin addiction has paved way for heroin epidemic

An alarming rise in heroin distribution with New York City at its epicenter has U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer calling for a $100 million surge of funding.
$100M Needed to Fight Heroin Scourge, Says Schumer
Sen. Charles Schumer (Lauren Victoria Burke/AP)
Matthew Little

NEW YORK—An alarming rise in heroin distribution with New York City at its epicenter has U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer calling for a $100 million surge of funding to collect the intelligence needed to bring drug lords down.

If not, he worries the drug will reach deeper into New York City, entangling young people and others looking for cheaper alternatives to prescription drugs. Last year, 35 percent of the federal Drug Enforcement Administration's total heroin seizures were made by NY-based agents.

“Kids who once were hooked on vicodin and oxycontin prescription drugs are turning to heroin because it’s much cheaper. You can actually get heroin, a more dangerous drug, for a lot less on the streets,” said Schumer in a press conference in his office Monday.

Deaths from heroin overdoses increased 84 percent from 2010 to 2012 in New York City and NYPD seizures increased more than 300 percent from 2011 to 2013. In the last two years there were over 200 heroin overdose deaths on Long Island alone.

“That’s one every three days, mostly with young people, many of them in the flower of their lives, and that is way too many,” said Schumer, referring to the deaths on Staten Island.

“Everyone saw what happened with the crack epidemic, our society ignored it for too long, it’s got its tentacles deeply into our young people and it took a decade to get rid of it. We cannot wait that long for heroin. We cannot wait until the heroin problem becomes an epidemic, a scourge, that we can’t get rid of.”

To fight it he wants an extra $100 million for the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTA) Program as part of the Senate Appropriations bill that is being considered in the coming weeks.

“HIDTA provides unique intelligence and surveillance and coordination, between local police including NYPD,” he said.

“Because HIDTA is best at surveillance and intelligence, they can figure out where the drug rings are, who they’re selling to, and put them all out of business.”

Old cocaine trafficking routes are being repurposed for heroin shipped from South America by Mexican cartels to warehouses in the Bronx and Manhattan, then sold to prescription drug addicts looking for a cheaper high.

Heroin seizures in New York City are at their highest levels since 1991, and the year is not yet finished, said Schumer.

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Matthew Little is a senior editor with Epoch Health.