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Officials, victims applaud new drug law

Teri Kroll, whose son Tim died after using

Teri Kroll, whose son Tim died after using prescription drugs and then eventually heroin, testifies during hearing in Albany chaired by New York State Sen. Kemp Hannon. Hannon was expected to introduce a package of bills Monday designed to improve tracking of narcotic painkillers. (Feb. 13, 2012) Credit: Newsday/Ted Phillips

For Teri Kroll, a recently passed law aimed at curbing prescription pain-pill abuse statewide is personal.

The Lindenhurst woman's son Timothy, 23, died of a heart attack after years of drug addiction. She said she blames a Massapequa doctor for prescribing high dosages of oxycodone to her son. In October, that doctor, Saji Francis of Melville, was sentenced to 6 months in jail for illegally selling prescriptions to his patients.

"It's been 1,033 days since my son Timothy died," Kroll said Wednesday morning at a news conference in Mineola. "I'm not the first parent to lose a child to this drug addiction. But I'd like to be among the last."

Kroll, 54, joined state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, Nassau District Attorney Kathleen Rice, state Sen. Charles Fuschillo Jr. (R-Merrick), state Sen. Kemp Hannon (R-Garden City) and other officials, victims and drug experts to tout the law passed earlier this month that will considerably alter how the Empire State tracks prescriptions for narcotic painkillers.

"It's appropriate that we're gathered here on Long Island," Schneiderman said, "because this is where a lot of the coalition that enabled us to pass this bill came from."

The passage of the law -- abbreviated I-STOP, for Internet System for Tracking Over-Prescribing Act -- came a year after four people were slain at a Medford drugstore during an armed robbery of oxycodone pills that made prescription drug abuse a statewide concern.

By requiring real-time updates of a statewide database of many painkiller prescriptions, the law aims to crack down on doctor shopping, in which addicts and drug dealers travel from doctor to doctor, and druggist to druggist to obtain numerous pills beyond what they should be prescribed.

The real-time tracking provision could take up to 12 months to implement, and until nearly 2015 for the electronic prescription system to be fully online.

Meanwhile, the head of the Long Island office of the federal Drug Enforcement Administration called for law enforcement, the medical profession and the pharmaceutical industry to work together to halt the surge in the illegal use of painkillers.

"We are not going to arrest our way out of this situation," John Austin told a gathering of a hundred key medical professionals, industry leaders and law enforcement officials Wednesday at Oheka Castle in Huntington.

Austin said that while federal agents, prosecutors and police have an important role, the situation is so complex that he was hoping to have regular meetings with the group to develop varied approaches to the problem.

With Robert E. Kessler

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