ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) – A Senate Task Force says New York needs to do more to fight the heroin and opioid epidemic.
A total of $214 million was set aside in this year’s state budget to tackle the problem by spending money on prevention, treatment, and education.
The Senate says there is one more way New York can help.
“Opioid and Heroin addiction is probably the biggest scourge of our time recently,” Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan (R) said.
Senate Republicans say money for treatment and education is helping some people, but it’s time to increase penalties to get heroin dealers off the streets.
“All of the investments that we’ve made, the services, the progress will all be for not if we don’t go after the supply,” Senator George Amedore said.
These senators want to charge dealers with homicide if someone they’ve sold to dies and increase penalties based on the amount sold and if they sell near treatment centers.
“I’m not sure that we’re ready to except that as an answer, it’s an answer that’s been tried and failed,” Assemblymember Joe Lentol said.
“What we really need to do is concentrate on helping people and not throwing them in jail,” Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal said.
Assembly Democrats continue to argue locking people up is not the answer, creating a wedge between Assembly and Senate leadership.
“That is crazy, that is irresponsible and it’s unacceptable,” Senator Fred Akshar said.
“To get the low-level drug dealer off the street will accomplish nothing because there are many more to replace them. It’s the kingpins we need to get,” Rosenthal said.
This chamber last year shot down a similar package that would’ve increased penalties. Members say its possible members could agree on more heroin help, but what that will look like is unclear.