Golden to hold town hall on drug abuse
By Paula Katinas
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
There is a hidden drug problem in Bay Ridge that state Sen. Marty Golden is trying to shed a light on.
More than a dozen young people under the age of 21 have died of heroin overdoses in southern Brooklyn communities like Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights and Bensonhurst in recent years, according to Golden, who said the alarming rate of drug deaths is a call to action.
“Drugs are still a scourge on our community,” Golden told the Brooklyn Eagle.
Golden (R-C-Bay Ridge-southern Brooklyn) will hold a town hall on drug abuse on Thursday, Feb. 27, at PS 170, 7109 Sixth Ave., at 7 p.m. to raise public awareness of the growing problem. The town hall meeting will be co-sponsored by the Arab American Association of New York and the Yemeni American Association of New York.
The recent death of Academy Award winning actor Philip Seymour Hoffman from a heroin overdose is making people more aware of the dangers, Golden said. Calling the actor's death "a tragedy," Golden said it's shocking to see how widespread the problem is.
“People are selling heroin to 14 year olds. And once you take it, you’re hooked. It’s very addictive,” Golden said.
Part of the problem, according to Golden, is that heroin is relatively cheap and is therefore affordable to young people. “You can buy a ‘nickel bag’ for as little as $5 or $10. That’s cheaper than a pack of cigarettes,” he said.
Local drug dealers are selling heroin “out of cars, out of the clubs, out of houses,” Golden, a retired police officer, said.
Golden named three “hot spots,” street corners where drug sales have allegedly taken place in recent months – Fifth Avenue and 72nd Street, Sixth Avenue and 74th Street and Third Avenue and 93rd Street.
“There have been arrests and the police are continuing their investigations,” Golden said.
The town hall will feature presentations by health experts and law enforcement officials. “The idea is to raise public awareness of this life and death issue. We will give an update on what law enforcement is doing. And we will tell you what to look for in your child. There are signs of drug abuse that parents should know,” Golden said.
The town hall will also include tips on what to do if you suspect drugs are being sold or if you believe a young person you know is caught in the grip of addiction. “We have to get these young people into treatment programs,” Golden said.
Community Board 10 (Bay Ridge-Dyker Heights) is also working on a response to the drug problem. Members of the board's Health and Public Safety Committee recently held a special meeting to focus on the issue. "It's happening in our community. We have to do something about it before it's too late and more young people die," one board member told the Eagle.
Ironically, the shocking rise in heroin use among young people might be traced back to New York State’s noble efforts to combat prescription drug abuse, according to Golden.
Two years ago, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed into law a bill passed by the State Legislature aimed at preventing patients from obtaining multiple prescriptions for the addictive painkiller Oxycodone, a practice known as “doctor shopping.” The law, called “I-Stop,” mandates that prescriptions be dispensed electronically, rather than by a doctor’s prescription pad, to prevent cases of fraud and abuse.
The law also created a "real time" prescription monitoring registry to provide timely information to doctors and pharmacists on when and where prescriptions are being filled.
“We have ‘I-Stop’ and that has made it more difficult to get Oxycodone,” Golden said. “As a result, the kids are moving to a cheaper drug, heroin. Brooklyn has become a major spot to buy heroin,” he said.
Despite New York State’s efforts, prescription drug abuse has become one of the nation’s fastest-growing drug problems, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Nearly 15,000 people in the U.S. die every year of overdoses due to prescription painkillers. In 2010, one in 20 people in the United States over the age of 11 reported using prescription painkillers for nonmedical reasons.
Updated to include information on the town hall's co-sponsors.
A spokeswoman for the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene contacted the Brooklyn Eagle after the article appeared to report that the agency’s data on heroin-related deaths does not support the statistic cited in the article on the number of heroin overdose deaths among people under the age of 21. The spokeswoman told a reporter that such deaths are listed by drug type and by borough, but are not stratified by age.
In addition, a report on drug-related deaths in New York City issued by the Dept. of Health found that there does not appear to be a correlation between the enactment of the state's "I-Stop" law and a rise in heroin overdose deaths.