SCHUMER: WITH THE HIGHEST OPIOID OVERDOSE DEATH RATES PER CAPITA IN NYS, SULLIVAN COUNTY STILL LACKS CRITICAL FEDERAL DRUG TRAFFICKING DESIGNATION; SCHUMER LAUNCHES TWO-PRONGED PLAN TO COMBAT HUDSON VALLEY’S OVERDOSE EPICENTER
20% Of All Deaths In Sullivan Just Last Month Were Opioid-Related; Despite That Sullivan Is Hudson Valley’s ONLY County Not Designated A ‘High-Intensity Drug Trafficking Area,’ Blocking Vital Federal Resources To Beat Back Scourge
Schumer Launches Two-Part Plan: (1) Make Sullivan HIDTA-Designated To Stop Dangerous Drug Traffickers (2) Supercharge Community-Based Addiction Treatment, Harm Reduction, & Recovery Resources To Get Residents The Help They Need
Schumer To Feds: Give Sullivan County The Support It Needs To Stop Drug Traffickers, Keep Community Safe, And Save Lives
Standing at Catholic Charities, a lifesaving Monticello-based substance use treatment center, alongside members of the Sullivan County Drug Task Force, following recent reports that 20% of all deaths in the county last month were attributable to opioid abuse, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer today sounded the alarm on Sullivan County’s opioid crisis and launched a two-part plan to reduce opioid dependence and deaths in Sullivan County and across the Hudson Valley and the Catskills.
First, citing the fact Sullivan is the Hudson Valley’s only county lacking a High-Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) designation despite having the worst opioid overdose death rate in New York State, the senator called on the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) to immediately approve Sullivan County’s request to become a HIDTA-designated area. The senator explained that this critical designation would unlock key federal funding, resources, and coordination amongst federal, state, and local law enforcement and public health agencies to stop major drug traffickers in their tracks.
Second, the senator announced his push for a historic $3.2 billion increase in funding for National Drug Control Program agencies in the upcoming federal budget to further support evidence-based prevention, treatment, and addiction recovery services. Schumer said that this $3.2 billion increase in funding recently outlined by the Biden administration would supercharge community-based efforts to give those on the frontlines of the battle against the opioid crisis, like the Sullivan County Drug Task Force, more of the tools needed to combat the opioid crisis.
“With 20% of all deaths last month being opioid-related, the federal government must do its part in defeating the opioid epidemic that has claimed far too many of our loved ones in Sullivan County. While our first responders, public health experts, and advocates have worked tirelessly to combat this growing problem, they need more federal support,” said Senator Schumer. “The numbers are telling us that Sullivan County has some of the highest opioid death rates in NYS. Yet, Sullivan County is the only county in the entire Hudson Valley not included in the HIDTA zone, which helps to stop major drug traffickers. That’s why I’m calling on the Office of National Drug Control Policy to approve Sullivan County’s request to become a HIDTA-designated zone while also fighting to supercharge funding for evidence-based treatment and addiction recovery resources to get our local agencies the funding and resources needed to get people back on their feet and save even more lives across the Hudson Valley and Catskills.”
Sullivan County DA Meagan Galligan said, “The opioid epidemic has profoundly affected our community; per capita, Sullivan County leads New York State in overdose deaths. Working together, our Drug Task Force, led by me, Sheriff Mike Schiff, Coordinator Wendy Brown, Health and Family Services Commissioner John Liddle and our community partners are proactively attacking this problem from all angles – from education to diversion to policy recommendations, mother-child health services and more. We cannot do this alone. We need resources, including from our federal partners. I am pleased that Senator Schumer recognizes this dangerous situation and is committed to working with us to save lives.”
Schumer thanked these community partners for their work and further explained that 15% of all of the deaths in Sullivan County in 2021 were attributed to the overdose epidemic. 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 that Sullivan County is along major transportation routes, including Route 17, which makes it a target for drug traffickers. One troubling statistic is that babies born in Sullivan County suffer from Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS) at three times the rate compared to neighboring Orange County newborns. While Sullivan County's Drug Task Force has committed significant resources to respond to the drug trafficking across the region, Schumer said that additional federal support it would receive as a HIDTA county is needed to provide resources 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.
Additionally, Schumer’s call to supercharge funding for National Drug Control Program agencies in the upcoming federal budget to further support evidence-based prevention, treatment, and addiction recovery services builds on his work negotiating the American Rescue Plan, which included nearly $4 billion for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Substance Use And Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) to ramp up critical mental health and substance use disorder treatment and services in our communities. This included $30 million devoted to enhancing harm reduction interventions like syringe services programs.
Adding to these investments, Schumer said that the Biden administration’s proposed budget includes $21.1 billion for HHS to further support prevention, treatment, and interdiction efforts. Importantly, it also incorporates a historic $85 million for CDC’s evidence-based harm reduction services, $63 million for SAMHSA’s First Responder Training program, and continues the critical 10% set aside for recovery in the SAMHSA Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Block program. The plan also allocates over $18 billion to reduce the supply of illicit substances, including $747.5 million in increases for efforts to reduce the availability of drugs. Moreover, this plan calls for increases in funding for the Office of National Drug Control Policy’s Drug-Free Communities Support (DFC) program and for the HIDTA program, making the speedy approval of Sullivan County’s pending application that Senator Schumer called for today all the more important.
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.