Feds create special opioid task force for Long Island


A federal task force has been created to tackle the opioid crisis in New York State, home to some of the nation’s highest overdose rates, and it will be stationed on Long Island, according to a press release issued Friday by U.S. Senator Charles Schumer’s office.

Mr. Schumer said he helped secure $12.5 million in last year’s budget to create the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s “Heroin Enforcement Teams” to investigate heroin and fentanyl trafficking. One of six teams will be sent to Long Island. The others will be stationed at Charleston, Cleveland, Cincinnati, New Bedford and Raleigh, the release states.

“New York is getting an A-Team to help tackle the heroin and fentanyl epidemic and it couldn’t come soon enough,” Mr. Schumer said in the release. “I helped deliver the funds the DEA needed to create these teams because we are in urgent need of help and a special heroin enforcement team will lend a major hand in the fight to end the opioid scourge. I’m pleased that the feds have heeded the call. As the overdoses related to illicit fentanyl and other synthetic opioids increase, the new enforcement team will help the NYPD, Long Island and other local police departments across the state contain and beat back the dangerous tide. We must not let off the gas pedal in the fight against opioid dealers, abuse and death in New York.”

In the ongoing battle against opioid addiction, fentanyl — a prescription drug that’s found its way onto the streets in an illegally manufactured form — has surpassed heroin as Suffolk County’s deadliest drug. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes fentanyl is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine.

While it is possible to purchase pure fentanyl, the drug is most often mixed with heroin before it’s sold, creating a dangerous combination. In many cases, drug users are unaware they are buying the mix. They might think they’re ingesting the same amount of heroin they typically use to get high, but because of the added fentanyl, the dose they normally tolerate can become lethal.

Mr. Schumer’s press release notes statistics from the New York State Department of Health showing that Suffolk County reported 22 overdoses over a two day span in June, including one that was fatal. In 2015, 213 opioid overdose deaths occurred in the county, including 137 related to heroin, the release states.

In addition, New York City has been identified as a “major distribution hub for heroin mills that use JFK International Airport as an entry point to more easily access the greater Northeast region” and federal agents recently “seized enough fentanyl to kill 32 million people — the largest such bust in New York City history,” the release states.

The new federal team assigned to New York will be “comprised of two new DEA agents plus two officers from an existing task force,” the release states.

The Suffolk County Police Department is holding a press conference Saturday afternoon to reveal details on a recent drug bust where police seized “a significant quantity of deadly fentanyl,” according to the police press release.

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Photo: Fentanyl is often mixed into bags of heroin, creating a lethal combination that, according to officials, users are not always aware of. (Credit: Cliff Owen / Associated Press)