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NY Legislature shoots for heroin legislation

Patricia Farrell talks about the death of her

Patricia Farrell talks about the death of her daughter, Laree, from a heroin overdose during a news conference April 29, 2014 at the Capitol in Albany. (Credit: AP / Mike Groll)

ALBANY -- Heroin is now killing at a rate faster than automobile accidents in New York and tearing families apart from Long Island through upstate, state senators said Tuesday.

The Democratic conference of the Senate released jarring statistics about what they termed a heroin epidemic during a news conference calling for legislation, but it was a mother’s testimony that resonated Tuesday.

Patricia Farrell spoke about the death of her daughter, Laree, last year, days from her 19th birthday, from a heroin overdose. She had become addicted quickly.

"That was all it took, one time," the mother said. "Our kids are all at risk."

In 2012, 478 people in New York died of heroin overdoses, up 122 percent since 2008, according to the Democrats’ report based on a series of hearings last year.

The 2014-15 state budget adopted March 31 included a record $2.45 million to combat heroin and opioid abuse and treatment, but hearings and negotiations continue to do more.

The rise of heroin that was the subject of a series of recent Newsday articles is shaping up as a major objective of the remainder of the Legislature’s session. The Senate’s Republicans and the Senate’s Independent Democratic Conference which control the majority along with the Assembly’s Democratic majority are developing proposals. The session is scheduled to end in June.

On Tuesday, the Senate Democratic conference proposed requiring insurance companies to cover more treatment, greater access to overdose antidotes to first responders, more treatment programs, public service announcements to warn youths, and tougher penalties for selling heroin to another person that results in death.

“Too many New Yorkers are unaware of how easily heroin and other opioids can destroy lives,” said Sen. Kevin Parker (D-Brooklyn). He said his older brother was a heroin addict and died in prison 30 years ago.

“People can get addicted from even one use,” said Parker, ranking member of the Senate Alcohol and Substance Abuse Committee. “I’m ready to be the sharp end of the spear in addressing this crisis.”

“The time for hearings I over,” said Senate Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins (D-Yonkers).  “Within the last decade opioid use, particularly among young adults, has risen at an alarming and unacceptable rate.”

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