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Lowey, Puglisi Combat Heroin Epidemic In Westchester

Cortlandt Supervisor Linda Puglisi and U.S. Rep. Nita Lowey at a press conference advocating more resources to combat heroin.
Cortlandt Supervisor Linda Puglisi and U.S. Rep. Nita Lowey at a press conference advocating more resources to combat heroin. Photo Credit: Sam Barron

WESTCHESTER COUNTY, N.Y. -- An increasing number of young people are overdosing on heroin in the Lower Hudson Valley.

U.S. Rep. Nita Lowey (D-Westchester) was at Cortlandt Town Hall on Tuesday to announce her co-sponsorship of the federal Stop Overdose Stat Act to help stem the heroin epidemic plaguing the area.

“Every level of government must increase efforts to address the heroin crisis in our communities and throughout New York,” Lowey said.

The SOS Act would establish a federal plan to combat drug overdose deaths and distribute Narcan, the most frequently used drug to counteract overdoses from heroin to state and local officials and train them on proper use. The national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has credited overdose prevention programs with saving more than 10,000 lives since 1996.

Lowey was joined by Cortlandt Tiown Supervisor Linda Puglisi. Puglisi has been proactive against heroin since two Cortlandt men overdosed earlier this year. Two panel discussions have been held in Cortlandt since their deaths.

Between 2011 and 2013, there was a 69 percent increase in the number of youth entering Westchester treatment programs for use of heroin and other opiates, said Ellen Morehouse, executive director of Student Assistance Services Corp., a Tarrytown-based nonprofit organization.

According to Lowey, a third of heroin seized nationwide comes from New York. There were 85 heroin overdoses in Westchester in 2013 and 300 fatal overdoses from 2010 to 2013, according to the Westchester County District Attorney's Office.

"The statistics are frightening," Puglisi said. "It's really unbelievable."

The cost of heroin has decreased in the area and many young people are using heroin because it is cheaper than most prescription drugs. Puglisi said heroin sells for as little as $10 a bag.

"We need to educate the community that this is here," Puglisi said. "What will the results be next year? My mission is that we educate every family in Cortlandt so they know what to look for."

Lowey said cutbacks in funding for staff like guidance counselors and physical education teachers at schools may to be blame for the rising numbers.

"Kids need more outlets," Lowey said. "They need more of an understanding of what heroin does."

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