Reed: “Justice for Victims”
Calling it “Justice for victims of the heroin and opioid abuse epidemic,” Tom Reed is standing with victims, families and local law enforcement by introducing legislation, the Help Ensure Lives are Protected (HELP) act. “We care about providing justice for the victims lost and the families destroyed by the heroin epidemic,” said Reed. “It’s only right that we join together as a regional community to put a stop to worst of the worst crimes.”
Reed was joined by area officials at the Schuyler County Courthouse for a press conference that raised awareness and support for the legislation. Assemblyman Phil Palmesano, Assemblyman Chris Friend, a representative from State Senator Tom O’Mara’s office, Schuyler County Legislator Dennis Fagan, Schuyler County Sherriff William Yessman, Yates County Sherriff Ronald Spike, Steuben County District Attorney Brooks Baker, Schuyler County Assistant District Attorney Matthew Hayden attended. Representatives from the Ithaca Police Department, Seneca Falls Police Department, Penn Yan Police Department, Watkins Glen Police Department, also showed support along with public health officials, addiction recovery services representatives and emergency services personnel.
The HELP Act, would allow federal prosecutors access to more severe penalties, including life in prison or the death penalty, when prosecuting certain criminal drug cases. The penalties would apply in the event prosecutors connect an overdose death to the drug dealer that sold heroin laced with fentanyl.
The proposal was met with an array of support from law enforcement officials.
“I want to thank Congressman Reed for addressing the threat deadly laced heroin presents to our communities, and in particular to our youth. As District Attorney, I have had to sit with too many grieving families, go to too many funerals and worked with too many frustrated members of law enforcement – trying to explain why even though a drug dealer killed a member of our community merely to make a few dollars there is precious little we can do at the state level to hold them accountable. We have developed a policy and program for attempting to maximize accountability under existing state law but it is an uphill battle. This recognition by the Congressman of the lives knowingly taken by traffickers of this deadly drug for pure profit and creation legislation to hold them accountable as the murders they are, is a tremendous step in the right direction,” said Brooks Baker, Steuben County District Attorney.
“The war on drugs is an ongoing and up-hill battle that we face every day; and one that we do not take lightly. The heroin epidemic in Tompkins County has been a major concern to all local law enforcement, and has been going up every year. Any legislation that will aid us in our efforts to prevent and protect the public from this type of harm is welcome,” said Tompkins County Sheriff Ken Lansing.
“All western NY communities are being overrun with heroin and the effects of opioid addiction. From increased crime to overwhelming our limited emergency services resources, this nightmare has plagued us too long. Now Fentanyl laced heroin and pure Fentanyl is causing more overdoses and many deaths. I support any effort to punish those responsible for providing and supplying our communities with this garbage. Since it is very often fatal, and the dealers know it, it is equally befitting that the ultimate punishment be brought to bear on them. I fully support Tom Reed's legislation as a part of the solution to the heroin /opioid problem,” said Allegany County District Attorney Keith Slep.
“I feel this is just another aggressive program introduced by Congressman Tom Reed putting teeth in Law Enforcement’s efforts to fight drug abuse, especially by our young,” said Steuben County Sheriff's Office, David Cole.
The proposal comes in the wake of the recent spike in overdoses directly related to fentanyl laced heroin. The number of deaths due to synthetic opioids, mainly Fentanyl, rose 80% between 2013 and 2014. Fentanyl is extremely addictive substance, 100 times more powerful than morphine, which is often included in heroin without the user’s knowledge, to maximize the dealer’s profits.
The legislation is part of Reed’s continued efforts on the opiod issue. He has held several roundtable discussions throughout the region, hearing from local law enforcement, addiction counselors, recovery addicts and families to learn more about the epidemic.
Additionally, Reed supported the Comprehensive Opioid Abuse Reduction Act (CARA) which was signed into law in July. The law provides $37 million for new programs that offer prevention and treatment options for addicts by offering grants to states, and groups of states, to implement and expand access to these services.
Reed’s HELP act will bring balance to the approach by providing law enforcement with additional options to aid prosecution. “We placed the emphasis on treatment in the CARA bill and now it’s time to help law enforcement address this issue and keep our kids safe,” said Reed.