June 27, 2014

No easy answers, solutions for drug abuse

Multiple options could be used to combat problem

PLATTSBURGH — The solution is not an easy one.

Since Jan. 1, 2012, State Police have investigated 30 accidental fatal overdoses, most heroin- or opiate-induced, said State Police Bureau of Criminal Investigation Lt. Brent Davison.

In last December’s biggest-ever drug sweep in Clinton County, 24 of the 52 people arrested were charged with heroin possession or sales.

And the need — and taxpayer-funded cost — for foster care has escalated over the past few years, mostly because heroin-addicted parents are being declared unfit.

Children witness moms and dads doing drugs, selling drugs and committing crimes to get money to buy drugs.

Addiction makes criminals out of people who may not otherwise choose that path, Franklin County District Attorney Derek Champagne said, citing 30 to 40 recent burglaries in his area that can be linked to heroin use.

“They will turn to crime or to selling heroin to support their habit because you can’t support a $400-to-$600-a-day habit only on the salaries available in Franklin County,” he said.

And if the person uses a weapon during a break-in and confronts a homeowner, the DA said, “I might have another victim, and I have to prosecute.

“We’re going to have an incident where a homeowner is injured or killed” or a homeowner with a gun shoots an intruder.

“That’s a horrible situation to put our people in.”


When the case warrants it, the DA said, he gives more weight to drug treatment and rehabilitation in plea agreements or sentencing recommendations.

But that may not be enough, since insurance companies routinely pay for a maximum of 28 days of treatment, which is not long enough for heroin addicts to detoxify and start recovery, he said.

That means the cycle of crime can continue because the person comes back to the community still addicted and may again turn to illicit ways to get money to feed the habit.

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