SCHUMER PERSONALLY CALLS DIRECTOR OF OFFICE OF NATIONAL DRUG CONTROL POLICY TO PUSH FOR SULLIVAN COUNTY CRITICAL FEDERAL DRUG TRAFFICKING DESIGNATION; AFTER STANDING WITH THE SULLIVAN COUNTY DRUG TASK FORCE AND ADVOCATES, SCHUMER DOUBLES DOWN TO COMBAT NEW YORK’S OVERDOSE EPICENTER
Sullivan Is Hudson Valley’s ONLY County Not Designated A ‘High-Intensity Drug Trafficking Area,’ Blocking Vital Federal Resources To Beat Back Scourge
Senator Personally Called Dr. Gupta, Director of ONDCP, To Make Sullivan HIDTA Member To Stop Dangerous Drug Traffickers In Hudson Valley After Tragic Wave Of Fatal Overdoses
Schumer To Feds: Give Sullivan County The Support It Needs To Keep Community Safe & Save Lives
Following his personal visit to Monticello in April to stand with the Sullivan County Drug Task Force, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer doubled down on his advocacy to secure the Sullivan’s High-Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) designation and personally called Dr. Rahul Gupta, Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy to urge the counties approval. Sullivan is the Hudson Valley’s only county lacking a HIDTA designation despite having the worst opioid overdose death rate in New York State, blocking it from receiving key federal support and additional resources to stop dangerous drug traffickers.
“Sullivan County is on the front lines of the opioid epidemic and the fact that despite having some of the highest overdose death rates in New York it still lacks access the federal resources to stop major drug traffickers must change,” said Senator Schumer. “That is why I personally called Director Gupta to urge him to approve Sullivan County’s request to become a HIDTA-designated zone, and give our local law enforcement the tools and intelligence they need to stop the scourge of opioids and deadly fentanyl from entering the Hudson Valley. This, in tandem with historic $3.2 billion increase I am pushing for to bolster our addiction services can reverse the tides on this recent overdose wave, help get people back on their feet and save lives across the Hudson Valley and Catskills.”
“We are appreciative of Senator Schumer’s continued advocacy against the opioid epidemic and his efforts to designate Sullivan County as a High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area. The comprehensive law enforcement tools and resources that a HIDTA designation provide would be very helpful as we continue to combat drug trafficking and related violence in our county,” said Sullivan County Sheriff Michael Schiff.
“Sullivan County’s per capita overdose death rate is the highest in New York State, yet we are the only county in the Hudson Valley without the benefit of HIDTA designation. Without that designation, we are foreclosed from pursuing additional resources to combat this problem. Our State and local police forces are on the front lines of the opioid epidemic, and the efforts of our Drug Task Force would be well-served by strengthening our federal partnerships. Senator Schumer’s continued and zealous advocacy for Sullivan County’s HIDTA designation is critical in advancing our fight to save lives, and we are very grateful for his support,” said Sullivan County DA Meagan Galligan.
On the call, Schumer explained Sullivan County is the epicenter for opioid overdoses not only for the Hudson Valley, but all of New York State. 15% of all of the deaths in Sullivan County in 2021 were attributed to the overdose epidemic. Schumer stressed to Director Gupta that, following his visit, more than 25 deaths in Sullivan County were attributed to the opioid crisis during the month of May alone, making up 30% of all deaths in the county. Schumer noted to Director Gupta, who hails from West Virginia and has practiced in similar rural communities, that the Sullivan County Drug Task Force is doing all it can to fight back, however, their problem isn’t a lack of effort, it’s a lack of resources. Appealing to Gupta’s background in communities similar to Sullivan County, Schumer said the federal government needs to step in to assist the Sullivan County Drug Task Force.
High drug use and availability have contributed to Sullivan County’s consistently low health ranking as 61st of New York’s 62 counties. Schumer said while local law enforcement and advocate’s like the Sullivan County Drug Task Force have done tremendous work, additional federal support Sullivan would receive as a HIDTA county is the lynchpin needed to stop drug traffickers from bringing them into Sullivan in the first place and to curb drug-related activity and violence.
Specifically, a HIDTA designation would directly support coordinated law enforcement strategies at all levels and would make more federal resources available to reduce the supply of illegal drugs, like fentanyl, in Sullivan County. This includes giving local law enforcement the ability to purchase key equipment, such as narcotics analyzers and other equipment to combat drug trafficking at the ground level. Schumer also said a HIDTA designation would strengthen treatment access by facilitating critical partnerships between public health agencies and law enforcement and grants can be used to purchase critical equipment like Naloxone kits for first responders to mitigate the number of overdoses and prevent deaths.
This designation would also be boosted by Schumer’s simultaneous push for a historic $3.2 billion increase in funding for National Drug Control Strategy in the upcoming federal budget. This would not only supercharge community-based efforts to give those on the frontlines of the battle against the opioid crisis more funding for addiction treatment & recover services, but also increase funding for the HIDTA program and the areas which participate, making Sullivan’s approval all the more critical.
A copy of Schumer’s original letter to Dr. Rahul Gupta, Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, appears below:
Dear Director Gupta,
I write in strong support of the request submitted by Sullivan Drug Task Force to the United States Office of National Drug Control Policy to designate Sullivan County as a High-Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) within the High-Intensity Drug Trafficking Area of New York and New Jersey (NY/NJ HIDTA).
Sullivan County law enforcement agencies have reported a dire need for increased resources to combat the trafficking of heroin, fentanyl, cocaine, and methamphetamines, making Sullivan’s inclusion in the NY/NJ HIDTA critical. Disturbingly, according to New York’s most recent county-level opioid data, in 2020, the opioid overdose death rate in Sullivan County was three times higher than the state average and its per capita overdose rate was the highest of New York’s 62 counties.
Moreover, of particular concern is the impact of the high number of county residents suffering with Substance Use Disorder and its effect on Sullivan County’s newborns. Specifically, three times as many Sullivan County babies suffer from Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS) compared to neighboring Orange County newborns. Moreover, high drug use and availability, as well as these shocking rates of NAS, greatly contribute to Sullivan County’s consistently low health ranking as 61st of New York’s 62 counties.
Sullivan County and its major transportation routes, including Route 17, also 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. Importantly, Sullivan County's law enforcement agencies, including the Sullivan County District Attorney's Office and the Sullivan County Opioid Epidemic Task Force, have committed significant resources to respond to the drug trafficking problem throughout Sullivan County and the entire region. These are initiatives that would be greatly aided by this designation as a HIDTA county by providing real-time data, guiding operations, and planning for resource deployment to provide immediate assistance during critical incidents of drug-related activity and violence.
For these reasons and many more, Sullivan County would greatly benefit from federal, state, and local law enforcement resources along with the intelligence sharing that is available through the HIDTA designation. The Sullivan County District Attorney’s Office has coordinated an agreement with every law enforcement agency in Sullivan County to partner with the Hudson Valley Crime Analysis Center to promote active participation to help eradicate the importation and distribution of illegal drugs, not just in Sullivan county, but throughout New York State and beyond.
Thank you for your time and consideration of this important request.