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$26M federal boost for program to fight opioids on LI

Funding from the program has helped implement an

Funding from the program has helped implement an overdose mapping tracking system in Nassau and Suffolk. Credit: AP / Patrick Sison

A program that helps Long Island law enforcement battle the opioid epidemic is slated to receive a $26 million increase in federal funding.

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) on Friday detailed the substantial bump in funding to the federal High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area program, or HIDTA, contained in the recently passed federal budget. It will help law enforcement with intelligence-sharing and drug investigation initiatives. With the increase, the program’s budget will be $280 million this fiscal year.

Funding from HIDTA has been used to implement an overdose mapping system in both the Nassau and Suffolk police departments, which has been used to target areas especially hard-hit by the crisis that last year killed about 600 Long Islanders.

“When it comes to fighting the opioid scourge and drug trafficking that has plagued our community and severely hurt many good families, the bipartisan spending bill I negotiated and President Trump signed had Long Island written all over it,” Schumer, the Senate minority leader, said in a statement Friday. “Because for too long, heroin and opioid use, fatal overdoses and drug-related crimes have been on the rise here. But this bipartisan budget bill delivers hard dollars to fight back.”

Suffolk District Attorney Timothy Sini, in an interview Friday, said HIDTA is “important to Suffolk County,” citing funding from the program that pays for a full-time drug analyst at the Suffolk County Police Department. Information is used “to make both policy decisions, on both the enforcement and public health sides,” he said.

Sini, who is a member of the local HIDTA team, said he’s working with HIDTA for funding for an analyst in the district attorney’s office’s new Crime Strategies Unit.

“We appreciate Senator Schumer’s continued advocacy for the funding of HIDTA,” Sini said.

The funding windfall comes as Schumer continues to battle a White House proposal to shift the HIDTA program from its current home in the Office of National Drug Control Policy to the Department of Justice. Critics, including Sini, Nassau District Attorney Madeline Singas and Nassau Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder, have said the move would bury the program in bureaucracy and could make it harder to get federal support for Long Island.

“I was proud to join with Senator Schumer in February to sound the alarm against a proposed diminution of HITDA’s role,” Singas said Friday in a statement. “HITDA provides essential support to our efforts to dismantle the drug trafficking networks that continue to move deadly heroin into our communities, and at this critical juncture in the fight against opioids, we need every available tool to end this epidemic and save lives.”

Schumer said the increased funding for HIDTA marks “a major win” in the fight to keep the program intact.

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