MONTICELLO, NY — “Sullivan County continues to have the highest opioid death rate per capita in all of New York State, yet Sullivan County is the only county in the Hudson Valley …
MONTICELLO, NY — “Sullivan County continues to have the highest opioid death rate per capita in all of New York State, yet Sullivan County is the only county in the Hudson Valley that’s not a federally designated HIDTA zone,” said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY).
Schumer was speaking following a March 10 meeting in Monticello, convened to push for Sullivan County’s status as a High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA).
The HIDTA program began in 1988 to provide assistance to law enforcement agencies working in areas with critical levels of drug trafficking. The criteria to be considered a HIDTA include drug-related activities harming the area, a significant diversion of resources by area law enforcement toward the problem of drug trafficking, and that the area is a significant center of drug activity.
Sullivan County is a major target for drug trafficking, as New York City drug dealers send their product upstate through the county, Schumer said. And drugs have had a major impact on the area—in 2022, the county experienced 218 overdoses and 24 fatalities—with the county’s opioid statistics consistently exceeding state averages.
The county has so far not received a HIDTA designation, despite the impact it has felt from the opioid epidemic. It applied for such a designation in 2021 and in 2022 without success.
“How could you have the highest [opioid death] rate and not be a designated [HIDTA]? I would call it bureaucracy,” said Schumer. He had called Dr. Rahul Gupta, director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, following the failure of Sullivan’s 2022 application, and had been told that Sullivan lost out due to technical difficulties and the failure to meet certain criteria.
The meeting on March 18 brought law enforcement officials, health care professionals and legislators together to prepare Sullivan’s 2023 application, to ensure it didn’t meet with the same difficulties as did previous applications. “My goal for this meeting is to make sure that Sullivan County can submit the best application possible,” said Schumer.
Chauncey Parker, director of the NY/NJ HIDTA, and Frank Tarentino, special agent in charge of the DEA’s New York division, met with local representatives including Sheriff Mike Schiff, District Attorney Brian Conaty and head of the Sullivan County Drug Task Force and deputy commissioner of the Sullivan County Division of Health and Human Services Wendy Brown.
The application is important for Sullivan County, particularly in light of the work already happening at the local level, said Parker. “You’ve done the hard part. You already have the village. You already have everybody you could imagine who are locking arms and working together, we just need to give you the support from the HIDTA program.”
The HIDTA application is due March 31.
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