WITH DANGEROUS FENTANYL-LACED HEROIN SPIKING IN BUFFALO & OVERDOSES DRAMATICALLY RISING, SCHUMER PUSHES TO REVERSE PRESIDENT’S PROPOSED CUT TO DRUG TRAFFICKING PROGRAM THAT BUFFALO LAW ENFORCEMENT SAYS IS CRITICAL TO BREAKING UP LOCAL DRUG RINGS – LAUNCHES PUSH TO PREVENT CUT & RAISE FUNDING FOR PROGRAM BY $100M
Deadly Fentanyl-Laced Heroin Is Now Entering The Buffalo Area & A Rising Number of Heroin Deaths In Western New York Are Linked To This New, More Dangerous Form Of The Drug; Heroin Overdose Deaths In Buffalo Are Up Over 30% Since 2013, with More Than 35 Deaths Already this Year; Local Leaders Worried Numbers Could Reach 200 in 2015
Schumer Opposes Administration’s Plan To Cut Funding For The Fed. High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas Program, Which Buffalo Law Enforcement Credits With Helping To Fight Drug Trafficking & Providing The Surveillance, Equipment, & Coordination With Feds & Other PD’S That Has Enabled BPD To Arrest Drug Dealers and Break Up Drug Rings – Will Call On Senate To Instead Boost HIDTA Program By $100M
Schumer: With Deadly Fentanyl-Laced Heroin Now Entering The Buffalo Area, Now Is Not The Time To Cut Back Federal Funding To Combat Heroin Trafficking & Abuse In Buffalo
U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer, today at Buffalo Police Headquarters, in light of growing use of heroin in the Buffalo region and the prevalence of new, more dangerous fentanyl-laced heroin, launched a push to prevent proposed cuts to a critical drug-trafficking program. Buffalo Police Department (BPD) says the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) program is essential to their efforts to combat heroin and other drug trafficking. Schumer said that instead of being cut, the program should receive a $100 million increase. According to media reports, there were 29 heroin overdose deaths in Western New York last year, a third more than the year before, and 30% of opioid deaths are attributed to fentanyl or heroin laced with fentanyl. Fentanyl-laced heroin is a powerful drug, being packaged in Buffalo under brand names such as “99 Problems,” “LeBron James,” "Shine," and “Diesel.”
Despite the increase in heroin overdoses and crime, the Administration surprisingly proposed cuts to the federal HIDTA program, which provides key resources to better assess unique drug-trafficking patterns in the region. The program has helped BPD to break up drug rings, as well as find and arrest drug dealers, including one last week who sold fentanyl-laced heroin to a Tonawanda resident who later died of an overdose. The administration’s budget proposal would cut HIDTA funding from $245 million to $193 million, which Schumer strongly opposes. Schumer said that with the recent epidemic of opioid and heroin use in Western New York, now is not the time to cut federal funding to combat drug trafficking in Buffalo, and he will push to increase HIDTA’s funding by $100 million in the Fiscal Year 2016 budget.
“The recent epidemic of heroin overdose and death in Western New York is heartbreaking. The rise in abuse of fentanyl-laced heroin, which can be 50 times more potent than heroin alone, is downright terrifying,” said Senator Schumer. “HIDTA funding helps federal and local law enforcement officials share information, equipment, manpower, and resources to fight this epidemic, and now is not the time to cut back on that funding. In fact, we need to increase funding to programs like HIDTA to get drugs out of our communities. Heroin use and trafficking is on the rise and we need to reverse it now.”
Schumer explained that heroin containing fentanyl can be colorless and odorless, and creates a type of “super high” for users. Fentanyl is a schedule-II drug and a powerful opiate; it is fifty to 100 times more powerful than heroin and, according to media reports, and can be more potent than morphine. It is often used by doctors to treat patients with severe pain, and is commonly prescribed to people with chronic pain in extreme circumstances, such as end-state cancer patients. Mixing fentanyl with heroin, however, can make the drug lethal, and oftentimes, buyers don't even realize they are getting heroin laced with fentanyl. The combination increases the drug's potency and the likelihood of overdose, and death. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) recently posted a warning about this “killer heroin,” and warned about the dangers of fentanyl-heroin mixtures. The DEA urged first responders to exercise extreme caution because fatal amounts of fentanyl can be directly absorbed through the skin just by touching it.
Schumer said that the HIDTA program helps counties address recent and disturbing upticks in heroin usage and drug-related crime by improving coordination among federal and local law enforcement agencies, as well as providing equipment, technology and additional resources to tackle this challenge. The HIDTA program funds intelligence-sharing initiatives, drug use prevention and drug treatment initiatives, as well as support for programs that provide additional assistance to law enforcement to do in-depth investigation into drug overdoses and crimes. This has led to the arrest of drug dealers, and the breaking up of major drug rings that bring fentanyl-laced heroin and other drugs into Western New York.
The New York/New Jersey HIDTA is one of 28 HIDTAs nationwide, which include approximately 16 percent of all counties in the United States and 60 percent of the U.S. population. There are currently 21 counties in New York that are part of the NY/NJ HIDTA, including Erie County. HIDTA Drug Intelligence Officers in each area are constantly gathering and sharing information to assess drug trafficking patterns, and developing strategies to address the unique needs of each area. The DIO also works with HIDTA officials in New York City to arrange needed funding for equipment and manpower, and coordinates initiatives between local, state, and federal law enforcement officials.
Because this program is critical for communities like Buffalo and others across the country that are working to combat serious surges in heroin abuse and drug-related arrests and death, Schumer said that Congress should be increasing, not decreasing funding to strengthen this unique program. According to media reports, there were 106 opioid deaths in Buffalo last year, 29 due to heroin, which is a 30% spike from the year before; 30% of opioid deaths in WNY are attributed to fentanyl. This critical program provides intelligence, surveillance and coordination and it has proven vital in the effort to track and dismantle drug rings, particularly those drug rings that produce and traffic fentanyl-laced heroin. Schumer said that the recent increase in heroin-related deaths and usage makes it clear that the federal government should do be providing experts and law enforcement officials with the resources necessary to fight the trend. Schumer today opposed President Obama’s plan to cut funding from HIDTA and said that the Senate should increase funds by $100 million.
Through the HIDTA program, BPD coordinates with local police departments throughout Erie County and has been successful in synchronizing law enforcement efforts across multiple jurisdictions to make arrests and seize illegal drugs. HIDTA helped cover the costs of equipment, overtime, officer training, and wireless computers, which has led to successful drug busts and arrests. Just last week, an investigation led by BPD and the DEA led to the arrest of a dealer selling fentanyl-laced heroin that killed a Tonawanda resident. Such successes would not be possible without HIDTA funds that covered the cost of analysts and a Buffalo command center for law enforcement to investigate local trafficking and overdose patterns.
“The High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) program is important for cities like Buffalo and others across the country where we’ve seen people struggling with heroin and prescription drug addiction,” said City of Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown, noting that Buffalo Police Officers were the first in the area to be trained to administer Narcan, a heroin overdose reversal medication. “It can be a challenge for local law enforcement agencies to fight back against a growing drug epidemic without the proper resources and I applaud Senator Schumer for working to increase HIDTA funding for this unique program that will help us continue to combat drug trafficking in Buffalo.”
“As the Drug Intelligence Officer for Erie and the surrounding counties, I know how critical HIDTA funding has been in combatting the drug epidemic in Western New York. Every day, I receive requests from local police departments looking for technology and other resources to help them get drugs like heroin and fentanyl out of their communities," said Dan Rinaldo, HIDTA Drug Intelligence Officer for WNY. “Senator Schumer has always been supportive of law enforcement and he is always on the forefront of ensuring that we have everything we need to keep our communities safe. I am grateful for his work to protect and increase HIDTA funding.”
“The recent epidemic of drug overdoses in Erie County and the City of Buffalo are startling. We are seeing individuals from all walks of life hooked on highly addictive and dangerous drugs. The recent rash of fentanyl-laced heroin, which is deadly, is even more troubling," said City of Buffalo Police Commissioner Daniel Derenda. “Through cooperation and collaboration with HIDTA, the DEA, and other police jurisdictions, Buffalo Police have been able to arrest individuals who are selling and trafficking drugs into our communities, and this is not the time to cut the resources that HIDTGA provides to help us do this work. We are thankful for Senator Schumer's advocacy on behalf of this program, and we appreciate his fight to ensure that the men and women of the Buffalo PD have the resources necessary to do their jobs.”
Under the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1988 and the ONDCP Reauthorization Act of 2006, the Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) is authorized to declare areas that exhibit serious drug trafficking problems as HIDTAs if local law enforcement groups petition for the designation. Many in Upstate New York are already HIDTA-designated counties, meaning that they receive federal resources to combat drug trafficking and sales. There are currently 28 HIDTAs nationwide, which include approximately 16 percent of all counties in the United States and 60 percent of the U.S. population. HIDTA-designated counties are located in 46 states. The purpose of HIDTA is to reduce drug trafficking and production in the United States. The program’s goal is to facilitate cooperation among federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies; to share information and implement coordinated enforcement activities; to enhance intelligence sharing among law enforcement agencies as well as public health officials; to provide reliable law enforcement intelligence to law enforcement agencies to facilitate the design of effective enforcement strategies; and to support coordinated law enforcement strategies that make the most of available resources to reduce the supply of illegal drugs in the U.S.
Senator Schumer was joined by Mayor Byron Brown, City of Buffalo; Buffalo Police Chief, Daniel Derenda; Drug Intelligence Officer, Dan Rinaldo; Cheif Al Rozansky, Erie CountySherriff's office, Narcotics Division; Avi Israel of the Michael David Israel Foundation and local drug addiction activist, as well as local families who have lost loved ones to heroin/fentanyl overdose.
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