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Growing Heroin Epidemic Is Focus Of Forum

Sen. Greg Ball hosted a forum attended by educators, law enforcement and community leaders. Video 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.