Heroin and Opioid Addiction Bills in Front of State Senate

ALBANY, N.Y. -- The state Senate on Tuesday considered a package of bills aimed at fighting New York's heroin and opioid addiction crisis.

The legislation proposed deals mainly with enforcement, or what Senate Republicans call going after the bad guys – cracking down on drug dealers by increasing penalties and making it easier for prosecutors to bring cases.

Republicans have focused in recent years on addiction prevention and recovery, but want to include creating new crimes for the sale of heroin, preventing the sale of drugs near recovery centers and increasing penalties for dealers.

"We can do everything in the world about insurance and treatment and recovery, all of which is important, but if we don't go after the perpetrators and punish them swiftly and severely, it doesn't matter," said Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan, R-Smithtown.

In many parts of the state, heroin addiction continues to be a major problem, with scores of overdoses in counties big and small over the last several weeks.

"We're still losing people at an alarming rate. We continue to lose a generation of people, so that sends a very clear message that we still have more work to do," said state Sen. Fred Akshar, R-Binghamton.

The issue has drawn bipartisan consensus when it comes to funding treatment recovery programs and providing money for anti-overdose services, but the bills face an uncertain chance in the Democratic-led Assembly, where lawmakers have been skeptical of any criminal justice issues that concern sentencing.

"We never think that the answer to peoples' addiction problem is to lock them up in jail. I'd say that's a fundamental disagreement that Democrats have with Republicans," said Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, D-Bronx.

The legislation comes with only six days or so left in the legislative session and after the federal government has proposed cuts to efforts combating heroin abuse. Senate Republicans in Albany insist they can chart their own path on the issue. 

Spectrum customers get full access
to all our video, including our live stream.