Millions of dollars in federal funding and support to combat the opioid crisis on Long Island — including crucial overdose mapping technology — is in danger because of a Trump administration budget proposal, Sen. Chuck Schumer said Sunday night.
The High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas, or HIDTA program, which is comprised of 28 regional task forces across the country that concentrate efforts on fentanyl and heroin, would be shifted from its current home in the Office of National Drug Control Policy to the Department of Justice — an estimated $340 million cost-cutting move.
Schumer (D-N.Y.), the Senate minority leader, said the move would “essentially mothball the HIDTA office” and create “needless bureaucracy and inefficiency” between localities and the federal government as Long Island struggles to contain the deadly opioid crisis.
“The proposal in the administration’s budget to shuffle the deck and bury the HIDTA office within the bowels of the Department of Justice, outside the direct purview of the White House, would be akin to putting Long Island law enforcement on hold when they make a call to the feds for real-time help,” Schumer said in a statement.
As many as 600 people in Nassau and Suffolk counties died of opioid overdoses in 2017, according to official projections, though the final numbers are still being tallied.
Since 2002, Long Island has received more than $2 million in HIDTA grant funding, officials said.
Schumer is planning a news conference on the proposal Monday at Nassau County Police headquarters in Mineola. Among Long Island officials expected to attend are Nassau County Executive Laura Curran, acting Nassau Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder, Nassau District Attorney Madeline Singas, Suffolk Police Commissioner-designee Geraldine Hart and Suffolk District Attorney Timothy Sini.
A representative for the Trump administration was not available for comment.
Last month, Ryder rolled out new real-time overdose mapping technology, called ODMAP, which was created by the HIDTA and allows police to track drug overdoses in real time, much as they do crimes, and place resources accordingly. Suffolk also uses ODMAP.
The mapping system sends alerts to police narcotics investigators and top brass if there are at least three overdoses in a one- to two-mile radius within a 24-hour period, which could indicate whether a drug dealer sold an especially deadly batch of heroin in the area.
“Right now, the HIDTA funds Long Island receives are administered directly by the Office of National Drug Control — a direct extension of the White House,” Schumer said.
“This allows Long Island law enforcement to essentially circumvent DC bureaucracy in their efforts to choke off trafficking and combat the opioid war. Dismembering this office, for whatever the reason may be, will undermine Long Island law enforcement’s ability to push a coordinated enforcement strategy, and we just can’t let that happen.”
With Laura Figueroa Hernandez