ALBANY – Republican candidate for attorney general Keith Wofford says he would bolster local first responders with dedicated funding to combat opioid and heroin addiction and mobilize an organized crime unit to combat the crisis.
In Mineola Thursday, Wofford said he would focus the attorney general’s office on a crisis that is ravaging Long Island and other communities statewide.
“The statistics are shocking,” Wofford said. “Heroin and opioid abuse are responsible for more deaths each year than breast cancer and it has caused the first two-year decline in Americans’ average life expectancy in 55 years … First-responders are our first line of defense against this crisis and we need to do more to support them.”
Wofford is facing Democrat Letitia "Tish" James to become New York's top law-enforcement officer. Democrat Barbara Underwood was elected to the post in May by the state Legislature following the abrupt resignation of Eric Schneiderman, which came after reports he had choked and slapped former girlfriends. Underwood, who had been a career attorney in the office, had said she wouldn't seek election in November, opening up the race to newcomers. Wofford won the GOP nomination in May; James won a four-way Democratic primary in September.
Wofford said he would use money recovered in law-enforcement cases against pharmaceutical suppliers to provide police and paramedics with the tools needed to treat users and put them on the path to recovery.
He said he would direct the state Organized Task Force to investigate individuals or groups who bring fentanyl and heroin into the state, and enlist the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit to investigate companies that failed to disclose the risks associated with opioids and physicians who overprescribed the drugs.
Settlements and fines from those probes would help fund the effort, Wofford said.
“Time and again, parents and family members cannot find open beds for their loved ones in need of treatment,” Wofford said. “By creating a dedicated fund administered through the Attorney General’s Office to invest in additional treatment capacity we can help families escape the horrors of opioid addiction and enable patients to receive treatment close to home where they have their families’ support.”
James had no immediate comment.