Sen. Charles Schumer said Monday he will ask for an additional $100 million in federal funds to help shut off a heroin pipeline from Mexico that has sparked a surge in the drug's popularity across New York City and Long Island.
"Now everyone saw what happened with the crack epidemic. Our society ignored it for too long. It's got its tentacles deeply into our young people, and took a decade to get rid of it," Schumer said Monday at his Manhattan office. "We cannot wait that long for heroin. We cannot wait till the heroin problem becomes an epidemic."
Schumer said the money would be part of an upcoming Senate Appropriations bill. If approved, the funds will assist a task force, known as the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area program, or HITDA.
The task force includes the FBI, DEA, U.S. attorney's office and other agencies. The additional funds will assist their efforts to share intelligence and prosecute defendants, Schumer said.
Putting more money into the task force is imperative in the fight against drug cartels in Mexico and South America, which Schumer said are supplying heroin in droves to the metropolitan area. According to his office, the Office of the Special Narcotics Prosecutor in New York City seized 288 pounds of heroin in the first four months of the year -- the most in that time period since the office started keeping records in heroin-related crimes in 1991. "For a while we thought the heroin scourge had ended, but it's back and it's stronger than ever," Schumer said.
The demand for heroin is growing across a wide swath of the Northeast, from Staten Island and Long Island to Vermont and Massachusetts, the senator said.
On Long Island, heroin overdoses took the lives of 121 people in Nassau and Suffolk in 2012. Another 120 people suffered fatal overdoses last year.
Jeffery L. Reynolds, executive director of the Long Island Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, who joined Schumer, said: "Long Island is in the midst of a historic crisis."
He said his office, which once served 100 people a month five years ago served 868 families last month.
Schumer said more money is also needed for treatment and rehabilitation. The Senate Appropriations bill is expected be on the Senate floor within a few weeks, Schumer said.