ALBANY - A series of statewide hearings began Thursday by the Legislature’s joint task force on heroin addiction as African American and Latino leaders are noting that the state’s newfound focus on the issue now hitting suburbs is an example of problems long ignored in minority communities which sparked the Baltimore riots.
“It was a criminal issue when it dealt with black and brown people for the majority,” said Assmb. Walter Mosely (D-Brooklyn). “Now when you are talking about non- black and brown people it is becoming a social issue, a health issue.”
“Last year we passed a heroin package,” said Assmb. Keith Wright (D-Manhattan), a lifelong Harlem resident. “Heroin has been decimating my community for years. Now that it’s happening in the suburbs, we had to do a package.”
Wright and Mosely as well other members of the New York State Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic and Asian Legislative Caucus emphasized they strongly support the newfound attention on the scourge of heroin statewide. They also warn it is perhaps the most visible example of the state giving too little attention to problems in their communities for years. They say that is the trigger of the riots in Baltimore that followed the death of a black man in police custody.
“Even as we have senior members in the Legislature on both sides, the power still ways back and fourth to those who understand the plight of the minority community and those who don’t,” said the caucus’s chairman, Assmb. Jeffrion Aubry (D-Queens).
The bipartisan task force meets Thursday in Westchester County followed by meetings of experts and community leaders in Rochester, Lewiston, Albany and other sites to be announced later.