BATH, NY- Today, Congressman Tom Reed stood with local law enforcement and community leaders to address the opioid epidemic that is plaguing our communities. Reed stressed the importance of awareness, treatment, funding, and enforcement in order to tackle this issue. In effect, Reed plans reintroduce the Help Ensure Lives are Protected (HELP) Act.
Reed was joined by area officials at the Steuben County Courthouse for a press conference in support of the legislation. Other issues discussed were 21st Century Cures, the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA), and the Thin Blue Line Act.
“Victims and their families deserve justice. The opioid epidemic is destroying our communities and killing many of our young people. We must join together to combat this problem. The HELP act will give the law enforcement community another tool in their tool box to put a stop to this problem,” Reed stated. “However, this is only once piece of the puzzle. We have to have a multi-pronged approach to dealing with this issue to assist those suffering helplessly from addiction. This is why I supported 21st Century Cures which provided over a billion dollars of federal grants and funding for CARA in order to assist states and local communities through prevention and treatment services to combat this tragedy head on.”
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.
Information regarding other legislation discussed:
The 21st Century Cures
- It was signed into law December 2016
- Established $1 Billion over two years for grants to states to supplement opioid abuse prevention and treatment activities
Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA)
- It was signed into law July 2016
- Directs $103 Million to implement the following programs:
- Drug Courts
- Veterans Treatment Courts
- Residential Substance Abuse Treatment
- Prescription Drug Monitoring
- Mentally Ill Offender Act
The Thin Blue Line Act
- This legislation adds the murder of a state or local police officer as an aggravating factor for a jury to consider in deciding whether to impose the death penalty in federal capital cases.
The HELP Act was met with immense support from law enforcement and community officials:
“The opioid epidemic has had an incredible impact on our community, and fighting this problem has to be a priority in order to save lives. Any law enforcement assistance or additional community resources are greatly appreciated by the Elmira Police Department and the Elmira community,” said Joseph Kane, Chief of Police for the Elmira Police Department.
“I recognize and thank Congressman Reed for his steadfast support of opioid related legislation as heroin use is truly an epidemic in the USA. Increasingly, we are seeing it cut with fentanyl for added potency or straight fentanyl being sold for heroin, and it is becoming the tragic killing substance of so many that are addicted. His support for law enforcement officers with the Thin Blue Line Act increases the morale of these fine men and women on the front lines of peace keeping,” added Sheriff Ron Spike of Yates County.
“The opioid problem is reaching new heights in our country. It is not just a big city problem; this epidemic is impacting the smallest of villages. Watkins Glen has seen two opioid deaths in the last year alone. I am glad to support Congressmen Reed’s legislation that will help law enforcement tackle this crisis head on,” Chief Steven Decker of Watkins Glen Police Department noted.
“Communities throughout our region are suffering from the effects of opioid abuse. I will stand with Congressman Reed to support of our local Law Enforcement officials. This legislation will empower them to hold drug dealers responsible for their actions. Too many are dying and it’s time we stand up and bring awareness to the heroin problem we are facing,” Assemblyman Phil Palmesano added.
“Our rural communities are being overrun with heroin and the effects of opioid addiction. From increased crime to overwhelming our limited emergency services resources, we need help in curbing this unfortunate trend. I support any effort to punish those responsible and support Congressmen Reed's legislation as a part of the solution to this tragedy,” stated Jeff Luckey Director of Emergency Services for Allegany County
District Attorneys from across the region also voiced their support:
“Seneca County has had several individuals who have died of an overdose after injecting themselves with heroin that was laced with fentanyl. Often times, the dealers who sell this deadly mixture, if arrested and convicted, receive probation or light jail sentences. I fully support Congressmen Reed’s proposed legislation to address the problem,” Barry Porsch, Seneca County District Attorney stated.
“I support any increase in penalties for those peddling the poison that is killing so many. I appreciate that Congressman Reed is reintroducing this legislation in DC,” stated Patrick Swanson, Chautauqua County District Attorney.
“I am proud to stand in support of Congressman Reed’s legislative efforts to hold drug dealers accountable. The heroin problem is deeply impacting the communities across Cattaraugus County. I see the impact every day. The HELP Act is another weapon in fighting this ongoing battle,” said Lori Rieman, Cattaraugus County District Attorney.
“In Steuben County we are too often confirming deaths caused fentanyl laced heroin. Precious lives in our community are being lost - and under current New York State law there is little we can do to punish those who are truly responsible. 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 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. Thank you Congressman Reed for listening, understanding and taking steps to save lives here in Steuben County, and throughout the Country” said Brooks Baker, Steuben County District Attorney.
“All western New York 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. 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 opioid problem,” said Allegany County District Attorney Keith Slep.