Growing Heroin Epidemic Is Focus Of Forum

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Sen. Greg Ball hosted a forum attended by educators, law enforcement and community leaders. Photo Credit: Brian Donnelly
Sen. Greg Ball leads a roundtable of educators, law enforcement and community leaders about the heroin problem in Westchester and Putnam counties.
Sen. Greg Ball leads a roundtable of educators, law enforcement and community leaders about the heroin problem in Westchester and Putnam counties. Photo Credit: Brian Donnelly
Laurie Dean (left), coordinator for Croton Community Coalition, talks while Nan Miller, coordinator for Mount Kisco Partners in Prevention, looks on.
Laurie Dean (left), coordinator for Croton Community Coalition, talks while Nan Miller, coordinator for Mount Kisco Partners in Prevention, looks on. Photo Credit: Brian Donnelly
Stephen Velichko made a documentary, "Chasing It" that was previewed during a roundtable on the growing heroin epidemic.
Stephen Velichko made a documentary, "Chasing It" that was previewed during a roundtable on the growing heroin epidemic. Photo Credit: Brian Donnelly

CARMEL, N.Y. -- The number of heroin overdoses in America has quadrupled since 1999, with a few already hitting Westchester County early this year.

Friday, education, law enforcement and elected officials gathered for a roundtable to shed light on the growing epidemic and share ideas for tackling it.

Frank Reale, president of Peers Influence Peers Partnership, Inc., got the roundtable started, saying that building awareness about the issue is the first step. Nan Miller, coordinator for Mount Kisco Partners in Prevention, a drug and alcohol prevention group, said forums like this help to do just that.

"The next step is to start to make the moves to address the issue," Reale said.

Miller said her organization is helping 28 Fox Lane High School students to create a public service announcement to air on cable.

"So students talking to other students through social media and every way is one powerful way," she said.

A Putnam Valley educator at the roundtable said they hold forums to educate their students on the dangers of drug use and abuse, but that parents need to get involved, too.

Heroin arrests in Putnam have risen 300 percent in the last few years, and the heroin-related overdoses have risen from five in 2011, to 20 in 2012 and 13 in 2013, according to a representative from Putnam Sheriff Don Smith's office, who attended the event.

Mount Kisco Partners in Prevention plans to create a parent support group to "help them give each other support and learn the skills." Miller said there have to be consequences for kids, citing a clip of a movie titled, "Chasing It" that was previewed at the roundtable.

The documentary by Putnam Valley native Stephen Velichko explores addiction from the perspective of those suffering from it, and their families. One father interviewed, Doug Greenwich, talks about losing his son, who overdosed shortly after leaving a rehabilitation clinic in California. Chris had been clean for about five months, which Miller and Reale said can make people more susceptible to overdosing.

"The difference between an overdose and just getting a 'good high' is a minute amount. A minute amount can put you into respiratory failure," Reale said.

Laurie Dean, coordinator for Croton Community Coalition, said over-prescribing narcotics with opiates, like Oxycodon, is how kids get started down the path to heroin.

Reale said kids started to see that taking pills was a "fun thing to do" around 2008. Those kids often start snorting it because it's a quicker high. Once they move on to injecting heroin, they can't stop.

"It's not something you want to do. You don't want to do it," Reale said of heroin addicts. "They have no control. And that's the issue." 

Dean said nobody thinks their kids are going to be shooting up heroin.

"But, they don't understand that (prescription pills) is the liaison," she said. "So, let's get rid of the drugs. get them out of your medicine cabinet if you're not using them, and get them safely destroyed."

The Croton Community Coalition is holding a drug take back event April 26.

Mount Kisco Partners in Prevention is holding a forum on heroin April 29 at the Chappaqua Library. 

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Comments (14)

I don't look at the dealer as the main problem of this epidemic. Knowing from first hand experience having been an addict myself, most of the people selling in these small communities are only doing it to support their own habit. The thing is with a drug like heroin if you don't get it from one person you're going to get it from another. Yes it is disgusting that this is what kids have become accustomed to, painkillers and heroin, but the best way to fix the problem is by going after the user. They're never going to stop drugs from coming into the area, anyone with a car can drive to the bronx pay 50 dollars and come back up here and sell it for 100-150, and every time you arrest one person selling it another persons just going to take their place. They need to offer more places and ways for people to seek help in a non judge mental environment and it will make a huge difference in the amount of people overdosing and getting arrested.

Heroin dealers should be executed when they're caught. It may not stop others from dealing, but at least it will be removing the captured ones from society and deterring them from doing it again.

I'd like to get to the root. Why are people in so much pain that they self medicate with these drugs.

Stop perpetrating the false link between prescription pain killers and heroin. These prescriptions have been around for years and years. According to the Feds own data LESS THAN one tenth of 1 percent is "diverted" in any given year. But due to this media enflamed hysteria and "experts" shooting their mouths off making false assertions, untreated and undertreated pain in the United States is considered the 4th greatest illness - alongside cancer, diabetes, et al. Untreated pain is life ruining, and deadly. Stress hormones in the bloodstream from untreated pain result in stroke and heart attack. FACT. High blood pressure and lost productivity add more deadly factors and to depression numbers overall. FACT. Why? Pain does not build character. Pain Kills. Harvard University and its peer's studies proved conclusively that an individual's bodies in need of and using opiates process these drugs to stop/mitigate the pain. So the "theory" of pain drugs are bad is pure cruelty, disinformation and hogwash. So much so, that folks in need of genuine pain relief are "afraid"to treat their pain and so do the likes of the Dr. Oz's fanclubs and their doctors. You wouldn't deny a diabetic their insulin because they're "hooked", now would you? Shame, SHAME on you puritanical miscreants.
Is there a tangential relationship - anecdotal or even direct between this miniscule addict population and the treatment of the 4th major illness (pain) in America? Sure. But cars kill people too. And stupid teens on cell phones. Therefore, cars are bad? Get it, now?

There is a direct link between painkillers and heroin use. The prescriptions used today have not been around for years and years. The new prescriptions are easily obtained by almost anyone. There are billions manufactured every year. and the Doctors keep writing the prescriptions, the doses get higher and higher. Go to a methadone clinic and you will see most are there for detox off modern painkillers, not marijuana or alcohol. Prices for oxycontin are going up and the users are turning to heroin, and that opens the door to many other problems from Hepatitis and AIDS. Use of opiates from the medical profession is now the gateway drug to a growing problem in our country. Its economics, pills go up in price, heroin goes down, when the price of heroin goes down cocaine prices will follow. This has been going on for many years. This pattern surfaced in Westchester in the 1970's. Cocaine took over in the 1980's, the 1990's brought ecstasy, MDMA, ketamine. Welcome to the new century, and the new painkillers you get from your friendly doctor. What's next, stronger meds, more people needing detox, speaking about detox, thats my tip for your 401 plans, a true growth industry

In my opiniĆ³n it doesnt matter if you're divorced or both parents are together. I've been divorced twice married three times, I have two daughters and three step children. Society I'm sure would consider me a train wreck because of my divorces but that's just empty nonsense to me. I had Horrible divorce including my husbands, kids went through hell, we all did. All my stepchildren finished college, my oldest daughter also finished college and my youngest is on her way to college in Boston this August. They are all responsible law abiding citizens. One of my stepchildren moved in with us when he was 15 so in reality I have three kids who were living with me. I didn't work. I stopped working to stay home to be with my three kids. I am a the type of parent that expects respect, I don't consider myself strict but I do know my kids lives, who their friends are and who the parents are. I keep to myself, I can count in my hand the amount of friends that I have but when it came to my kids and their friends I was on it and I knew who the parents were and I would get on the phone and confirm inquire and go about KNOWING my child's life, where they were going and who they were with. It's not brain surgery it's actually pretty simple. I am VERY PROUD of my children but I'm especially proud of my work ethic because in my opinion raising my kids properly was the same as having a job and doing well. My husband owns his own company, loves going to work every day and runs it flawlessly. I also own my own company which is my home, run it flawlessly, I love going to work every day raising my kids and soon I will be retiring from raising and I'm so damn PROUD. It's all about parenting!!

I truly do not believe home is where it starts. There are lots of kids that come from loving 2 parent homes that pick the path of addiction. I know tons of them growing up in Westchester. Some start by just being curious not even realizing they are on a road bound for destruction before it'd to late and there's no going back. I started young, not knowing the affects and then it was to late not because I didn't want to stop but because physically I couldn't. I went to pgs all over the country, detox, methadone programs which only makes you addicted to something else that is so hard to get of it almost seems impossible to some who can't handle the withdrawal. When were young we make bad choices I dont care where you come from. There are kids in the city from the ghetto, grow up all around it in single parent homes with no supervision and dont touch any drugs a day in there life. Addiction can only be taught and maybe in some instances prevented but you sure can't keep a child under lock and key to try to prevent it. Its impossible. I blame the parents to an extent but the addicted must take responsibility as no-one but that person made the choice to put that poison in their body!

I know this post is from almost a year ago but I just wanted to say thank you. I grew up in yorktown a very nice town in westchester with two parents who did everything and anything for me, I could go to them for anything and know that they would be realistic and honest in the way they handled my scenario. I became addicted to pills after getting teeth pulled at the dentist and enjoying the feeling I got from the Percocet, from then on it was down hill and I ended up doing heroin years later. After coming clean to my parents they were obviously upset and blamed themselves but it was me who chose to do the drugs, as much as I wanted to blame someone else it was all me and with my parents help I got help and have been clean over three years. Bottom line is I completely agree it has nothing to do with the parents it's all about the choices the person makes whether it be the environment they put themselves in or simply the choice to do drugs. It's wierd because as bad as the withdrawals are from opiates 80 percent of the uncomfortable and pain is mental, you set your mind to anything and you can do it.

Ok am I the only one who has no clue what you are talking about in regard to this article?

I for one can attest to the unending dedication "of the one." Though despite this unending dedication, heroin, as well as crack, pot and other class I, II, and III prescription drugs that are easily available, will be in epidemic proportions. Programs galore have made no difference. The difference is in the home; ER is correct in his/her assertion that this problem begins in the home and its solution is in the home. There is no, I repeat, no solution to these epidemics other than what our parents teach us as being the difference between what is right and what is wrong. Sound simple, yes, it is that simple. We only need to look at the vicinity of the drug use; Pound Ridge, Bedford, Mount Kisco, Chappaqua; once the bastions of what the suburbs were all about; a better life, better schools, better environments.

We cannot solve these issues by intervevntion, but prevention; and the sooner parents take responsibility for their "children" the sooner it will become unknown in our communities. When our culture has realized that two parent homes, two parent working homes, absentee parents contributing to the problem; and the mantra "have you done your homework yet" mentality inculcates the entirety of our society, there is little hope for that culture; what we can count on is that this epidemic will become a plague.

So while we applaud the work of people like Mel, we cannot, nor should we rely on him to pick up the pieces of the shattered lives which these drugs cause and the absence of parenthood create. It is not about rescuing, but about teaching, raising and forgetting what is important like our monetary attainment in life, but that our children are the money we should cherish. Spending the time, and knowing your children's place and who they accompany; and why they are with them; and making their cell phones quiet when they are home; supervising their internet access; and having someone home with them; that will make the difference. There is no program for that...

Yes, it is a lot of work, but you could have thought about that when you gave birth to them...

Those who are promoting drugs, marijuana, and heroin must be prosecuted. it will be a real threat to our society. For some it is a joke, but for many it will be a real threat. So those politicians who promote drugs must be prosecuted.

Prosecution is not the answer to the drug problem. Look at Netherlands: drugs are decriminalized and addiction is treated as a public health issue. As a result, they've cut addiction numbers in half. Also, how can you group together marijuana and heroin? And alcohol is worse than both of those drugs anyway and that is legal.

I know all the downfalls of being addicted to heroin. I started using it when I was 14 all the way up until I was 28 years old. I grew up in Westchester county and also have many friends I grew up with die from over dosing. I was one of the lucky ones although I overdosed many times. No person is going to stop using until they are ready!!! In 2010 I finally went to prison which was only just a start. 95% of people who come home from prison go right back to using their drug of choice. I guess I just decided I was done but the real battle doesn't start until you hit the streets again whether its prison, detox, rehab or whatever! I think this is a great idea and would love to be able to share my insight as I'm one of few who actually made it through and lives a drug free life. Please contact me at

nicole, i would very much like to work with you;the mt kisco drug council has developed a protocol for youn people who come before us with drug offenses or alcohol offenses;our goal is to get you through the addiction process and lead you on the road to sobtriety; our professional team consists of your presiding judge, the ada, your counselor
ourprogram has beed in effect for several decades with different degees of success !we started out of mt. kisco court and have recently been invited in to
the beford court i would be happy to discuss our program with you. i know you will benefit from it!!