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First Statewide Heroin Forum Held In Yorktown

County Executive Rob Astorino discussing the heroin epidemic in Westchester.
County Executive Rob Astorino discussing the heroin epidemic in Westchester. Photo Credit: Sam Barron
Judge James Reitz discussing Putnam's drug court treatment program.
Judge James Reitz discussing Putnam's drug court treatment program. Photo Credit: Sam Barron

YORKTOWN HEIGHTS, N.Y. -- The heroin epidemic continues to plague the Hudson Valley.

State Sen. Terrence Murphy (R-Yorktown) hosted the first statewide hearing of the Joint Senate Task Force on Heroin and Opioid Addiction at Mildred Strang Middle School in Yorktown.

The hearing featured testimony from elected officials, police officers, health care professionals and parents of people who have died of heroin overdoses.

"This has reached a crisis level in the Hudson Valley region," Murphy said. "There's only so many words that can describe the situation such as the one we're experiencing in the Hudson Valley."

Murphy said heroin says no religion, race or ethnicity and affects people of all ages and socioeconomic backgrounds.

"This will grab you and shake you down," Murphy said. "We are here together. When we work together, I know we will succeed."

Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino called the situation heartbreaking. He said a Northern Westester narcotics initiative has yielded more than 100 arrests while Narcan training has helped save 12 lives.

"This is not isolated to our urban areas," Astorino said. "This is spreading to small communities. Narcan helps save lives, but it does not reduce incidents or the dangers of heroin use."

James Reitz, a judge in Putnam County, spoke of the success of Putnam County's drug court program which gives people the opportunity to complete treatment program rather than go to prison.

"If you can keep people out of jail, you're saving millions of dollars," Reitz said. "When people change their lives and stay away from drugs, then people start to work and help each other. There are thousands of people in state prison that wouldn't be there if they had drug treatment programs."

Dahlia Austin of the Westchester County Department Of Community Mental Health said heroin and opiate deaths have increased substantially in Westchester.

"We must continue to focus support for prevention and increase support for drug and alcohol community coalitions," Austin said. "Heroin has taken a  toll on our community."

Mike Piazza of the Putnam County Department of Social Services said drug-related deaths have also spiked in Putnam.

"We don't just have an heroin epidemic, we have an epidemic to addiction," Piazza said.

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