Communities from across Suffolk County gathered on a wet Monday in support of the men and women who served our country to commemorate Memorial Day.
Communities from across Suffolk County gathered on a wet Monday in support of the men and women who served our country to commemorate Memorial Day.
Elected officials, religious leaders, volunteers and residents gathered at the Long Island State Veterans Home on the campus of Stony Brook University May 26 to give thanks to a roomful of United States military veterans. The annual ceremony, which includes a color guard, firing detail and wreath laying, honors the brave men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country — whose brothers and sisters in arms reside at the home on campus.
The Long Island State Veterans Home is dedicated to serving the more than 250,000 veterans who live on Long Island. Opened 26 years ago, the facility’s relationship with Stony Brook University’s medical department has been a winning combination for the care of veterans — providing skilled nursing services that many veterans wouldn’t otherwise have access to.
Veterans who fought in Vietnam, Korea and even World War II sat together in the home’s Multipurpose Room, some of them tearful as singer Lee Ann Brill performed moving renditions of “Amazing Grace” and Bette Midler’s “Wind Beneath My Wings.”
Marine Corps veteran Edward Kiernan read “In Flanders Fields,” a famous war memorial poem written during World War I. Korean War veteran Richard Seybold was honorary bearer of the wreath.
“Every minute, of every hour, of every day, Americans enjoy the blessings of a peace-loving nation — blessings protected by the selfless service of men and women in uniform,” Fred Sganga, executive director of the veterans home, said to the crowd. “The America we know would not be the same were it not for the men and women we honor on Memorial Day … a single day during which we honor the spirit of all those who died in service to our nation, but whom we continue to remember and honor in our hearts.”
Stressing the holiday means much more than a three-day weekend, Sganga recognized the collective shift in thinking when it comes to Memorial Day.
“In recent years,” he said, “a new awareness of the sacrifices our military members are making is emerging, becoming an ingrained part of our American experience.”
U.S. State Sen. Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson), who delivered the keynote address, read excerpts from President Ronald Reagan’s (R) 1984 address commemorating the 40th anniversary of D-Day. LaValle prefaced by saying, “Whether you served in the second World War, Korean War, Vietnam War or Gulf War, these words apply to you.”
“President Reagan said, ‘Forty summers have passed since the battle that you fought here … you were young the day you took these cliffs, some of you were hardly more than boys, with the deepest joys of life before you. Yet, you risked everything here. Why? What impelled you to put aside the instinct for self-preservation and risk your lives to take these cliffs? … It was faith and belief; it was loyalty and love. All of you loved liberty, all of you were willing to fight tyranny, and you knew people of your countries were behind you.’”
LaValle ended his address by thanking the veterans in attendance for their service.
“On behalf of the Senate and majority leader John Flanagan (R-East Northport), we really appreciate what you do and we try each and every day to make sure this veterans home is everything that you would want it to be,” LaValle said. “We all say thank you.”
To learn more about the Long Island State Veterans Home, visit www.listateveteranshome.org.
Ward Melville to face Smithtown East in Suffolk championship May 31
As the crowd and sideline erupted over a stretch of three minutes in the third quarter, it seemed like the Patriots couldn’t miss.
In fact, they didn’t, as the Ward Melville’s boys’ lacrosse team scored six times on six shots during that span, on the way to a 15-6 Class A semifinal win over Half Hollow Hills East May 25.
“We’ve been here before, and we were pumped up,” junior Zach Hobbes said. “We knew we had to come out fired up, because there was a chance we were going to go home.”
An early ouster from the playoffs seemed like a remote possibility coming into the game for two-loss Ward Melville, after Hills East gave the Patriots all they could handle in a triple overtime, 8-7 thriller during the regular season, but the second-half scoring spurt erased that possibility. Hobbes found the back of the net for the first of the six goals, which was his third of the game. Junior Matt Grillo scored twice to complete his hat trick, and junior Michael Giaquinto also scored twice, directly off faceoff wins.
“We played more unselfish,” Grillo said. “Last time we played them, we had a lot of individuals doing their stuff, and this time we looked for the open man, and it worked.”
The Patriots were riding a 6-2 halftime advantage into that 6-0 run. The last goal of the second quarter fired up Grillo and senior Eddie Munoz, inspiring the team to come out even quicker after the break.
Grillo intercepted a Hills East pass attempt by the goalkeeper, and with Kyle Bockelman outside of his posts, Grillo saw the opportunity at an empty-netter with Munoz at his side.
“I saw the rusty pass and I ran over to pick it off,” Grillo said. “Eddie’s always there to put it in, and I knew he was going to finish.”
Giaquinto, who split 10 faceoffs in the first half, won seven of eight in the third, and got lower on the draw to help him win 18 of 25 faceoffs overall in the game.
“I give Michael Giaquinto a lot of credit,” Hobbes said. “Those possessions were key.”
Munoz said his teammates have been hearing all season long how they’re the next resilient bunch to vie for the state championship, and he said he knew the next step toward getting back to where the Patriots were last year wasn’t too far out of reach.
“To be so close to another county championship — we needed to win,” he said. “Our drive is what got us here, and our confidence is through the roof, but you can’t be too cocky. We’re soaking it in, enjoying the moment, but once we get on that bus — get back to the school — we have work to do. It’s all about staying focused.”
Ward Melville will face Smithtown East May 31 at Stony Brook University at 3 p.m. with a chance for redemption. The Bulls halted the Patriots’ playoff push two years ago, with an 11-10 county final victory.
“We feel we have a standard to uphold at Ward Melville,” Hobbes said. “We need to get back to where we were last year, and take that title this time. We’re ready to play.”
By Alex Petroski
Suffolk County residents will play an important role in improving the health of their fellow Americans in 2017. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention selected Suffolk as one of 15 counties nationwide to participate in its annual National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, a data collection study that is used to draw conclusions about the health and diets of people in the United States.
The CDC is the nation’s health protection agency, conducting research in the hopes of preventing the spread of diseases and tracking their prevalence. The NHANES is a 55-year-old program that tracks health and diet trends in the U.S. by selecting counties based on demographics with the goal of accumulating a set of data representative of the entire population of the country.
This is the second time Suffolk was observed as part of the survey since the turn of the century, according to study manager Jacque DeMatteis. The CDC arrived April 29 at Stony Brook University’s Research and Development Park in three mobile trailers outfitted with dozens of pieces of medical equipment, researchers and physicians to begin assessments on the approximately 600 Suffolk residents selected.
“It’s important because right now we’ve got all of these miracles happening with cancer research and things like that, without information that people help us to provide — a lot of it comes from here — [researchers] don’t have anything to draw on,” DeMatteis said of the purpose of the yearly survey during a tour of the CDC mobile facility May 19.
Charles Rothwell, director of the National Center for Health Statistics, reiterated the importance of accumulating the data in a statement.
“The survey is a unique resource for health information, and without it we would lack important knowledge about major health conditions,” he said. “The comprehensive data collected by NHANES has a far-reaching and significant impact on everything from the quality of the air we breathe, to the vaccinations you get from your doctor, to the emergence of low-fat and ‘light’ foods on the shelves of your grocery store.”
The process for selecting participants within a county begins with about 1,500 addresses, and interviewers scour the area in the hopes of securing about 600 willing participants who also provide a representative sample of age ranges, genders, races and ethnicities and degrees of health. The selected participants who are willing to be examined then visit the mobile facility to be subjected to a variety of tests of blood pressure, diet, dental/oral health, vision and hearing, bone density, liver function and much more using high-tech scans not often available through traditional physicians.
DeMatteis made the case for selected participants making the trip to be studied despite some minor possible inconveniences.
“For the people who participate, they get their results back,” she said. “If anything abnormal comes up they’re contacted immediately. Our national health officer will contact them and we’ve had a couple of situations where it was kind of life-threatening situations and they were totally unaware of it.”
Participating adults also receive $125, reimbursement for travel expenses and the opportunity to receive credit for five hours of community service. Newborns and up are required for data collection, though specific scans and tests are not done uniformly across age groups.
“A lot of people do it for the exams, and in the past even more people had no means to get access to health care, so they came here because they’re going to get a whole lot of data about their health that they otherwise can’t afford to get,” DeMatteis said.
No medical procedures are offered at the site, though on occasion physicians are forced to recommend immediate treatment if anything concerning appears as a result of a test. Patients are also allowed to pick and choose which tests they’d like to participate in of the ones they qualify for. The CDC urges anyone selected to participate in the survey.
Thanks to the persistent support of state Sen. Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson), Brookhaven National Laboratory secured $15 million from New York State to add a state-of-the-art microscope that could contribute to advances in basic science and medicine.
The national laboratory will purchase a new cryo-electron microscope and will use the funds to create a building attached to its National Synchrotron Light Source II.
“Cryo-electron microscopy is an advanced imaging technology that will significantly accelerate scientists’ understanding of molecular structures and processes generally, including many impacts in understanding disease and in aiding drug discovery,” Doon Gibbs, the laboratory director of BNL, said in an email.
BNL will use the funds to purchase the first of what they hope will be four such new microscopes. The lab is finalizing a bid, which is due by June 30 for funds from the National Institutes of Health for three additional microscopes.
“There is an exponentially increasing demand for the type of bio-structural information that such machines provide, and so we are competing to become an East Coast based national facility to serve this rapidly growing community,” James Misewich, the associate director for energy and photon sciences at BNL said in an email.
Having a suite of microscopes would enable BNL to have a spectrum of capabilities to serve the needs of its scientists and of researchers from around the world who flock to the Upton-based lab to conduct their research.
The new facility will create jobs associated with running the cryo-EM, Misewich said. If BNL wins the NIH proposal to become a national cryo-EM facility, it would also employ additional scientists, engineers, technicians and administrators to run the user program.
Misewich said he hopes scientists at nearby Stony Brook University and Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory will benefit from the opportunity to use a combination of its X-ray and electron microscope probes.
Senior members of the BNL team credit LaValle for helping to secure the funds.
“The $15 million in New York State funding is the culmination of a two-year effort led by the senator to bring a cryo-EM to Brookhaven and jump-start this important effort,” Gibbs said.
LaValle suggested that the funds were well worth the investment.
“It is critically important for government to embrace and support the work of the organizations that make life-altering discoveries and better our lives, health and environment,” LaValle said in an email. “This investment will further establish world-leading prominence in the field of medical research, and position the region for additional major investments by the National Institutes of Health and the U.S. Department of Energy.”
Misewich envisions configuring one of the microscopes to allow for electron tomography, which will generate three-dimensional images of cells.
“The approach will be complementary to the X-ray imaging work we can undertake with the NSLS-II beamlines,” Misewich said.
Gibbs explained that the cryo-EM is complementary to X-ray crystallography, which is the traditional method for determining structures, which scientists already do at BNL.
“Few prescription drugs have been approved by the [Food and Drug Administration] for use in the U.S. in the last 20 years without a crystallographic study of their structure by X-rays,” Gibbs continued.
Misewich expects the new microscope could lead to new methods of detection, diagnosis and treatment for diseases like cancer or for medical challenges like antibiotic resistance.
Combining the technological tools of the new cryo-EM with the insights from the NSLS II and the nine-year-old Center for Functional Nanomaterials will enable researchers to “provide much more rapid bio-structure determination in response to needs like the ability to rapidly characterize a virus,” Misewich said.
LaValle sited this effort as a part of his ongoing commitment to build Long Island’s new high-tech economy.
The combination of BNL, SBU and CSHL “will provide a significant boost to the competitiveness of the biosciences and biotechnology communities across Long Island,” LaValle said.
Patriots shut out Smithtown in double-elimination game
By Bill Landon
Logan Doran delivered.
The Ward Melville player homered in the first inning, and drove in two runs in the second to give the No. 1 Patriots baseball team a 3-0 home win over No. 9 Smithtown East May 23, to advance to the Class AA semifinals.
Doran said he was looking for his pitch to set the tone early.
“It was a 2-0 fastball, and I was looking fastball dead red,” he said. “I saw it high and in, and just took a big swing on it. I didn’t think it was out. I was just running and then I heard my first base coach say it’s out.”
Ward Melville threatened two batters later, when Joseph Rosselli singled into shallow left, and Michael Sepe found the gap with two outs, but Smithtown East pitcher Nick Harvey fanned the last batter to strand the runners.
With two outs, Smithtown East’s Marc Barbiglia singled in the top of the second, Ward Melville catcher Tom Hudzik fired the ball to his twin brother Matt at second base to catch him on a steal attempt. The strike arrived in plenty of time for Matt Hudzik to apply the tag.
“They’re a hard-hitting team — they hit well last year and they came back and are hitting even better this year,” Tom Hudzik said. “It was Logan’s home run that got the momentum going.”
The Patriots went back to work in the bottom of the inning when Trevor Cronin singled to start things off. James Curcio followed with a fly ball to right field to put runners on the corners.
Again, Doran was the difference maker as he blasted the ball to right, plating Cronin and Curcio for a 3-0 lead.
“We played them [twice] and we knew what we were coming into,” Doran said. “We had to stay focused like we did the first two games. Just come out hot — that’s what we’ve been talking about. I think our team played great, and we just got to keep it rolling.”
The Patriots defense was just as potent as their bats, and the boys turned a double play in the top of the third for the first two outs. Later in the inning, with a runner on base, Hudzik sent another laser throw to his brother, who again waited for the runner to end the inning.
Ward Melville pitcher Max Nielson kept the Bulls at bay the rest of the way, spreading 76 pitches over the seven innings with four strikeouts and allowing just three hits in his shutout performance. It was the second playoff victory of his varsity career.
“The key to winning today was our defense,” Nielsen said. “But Logan’s base-hit knock sealed the deal.”
Ward Melville head coach Lou Petrucci also had high words of praise for Doran.
“He’s our captain ,and that’s what captains do,” he said. “That home run in the first gave us momentum.”
But he also gave other credit where due.
“Max pitched a heck of a game,” Petrucci said. “He kept their lead-off batter off base — he made quality pitches and you’ve got to give the guy credit.”
It was the third time these teams faced each other this postseason, each giving the other its first loss to send them into the double-elimination bracket.
“Bottom line is they played a little bit better than us, and they deserved to win,” Smithtown East head coach Ken Klee said of Ward Melville. “Our kids hung in there — we had a very nice season — and I’m proud of them.”
Ward Melville hosted the first of a three-game series on Wednesday against No. 4 West Islip, but results were not available by press time. The two teams will face off again on the Lions’ home turf May 25, at 4 p.m. The finals are set for May 31 at Stony Brook University, 3 p.m.
This version was updated to correctly identify the second baseman as Matt Hudzik.
By Kevin Redding
Suffolk County Police Commissioner Tim Sini took his crusade against MS-13 gangs to Capitol Hill this morning, calling on the federal government to further join in the fight.
Sini testified May 24 before the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs in Washington D.C. regarding the impact of MS-13 gang activity on local communities in a hearing entitled “Border Insecurity: The Rise of MS-13 and Other Transnational Criminal Organizations.”
Despite historic reductions in crimes in Suffolk County since last year, Sini said, there’s been an increase in gang violence connected to MS-13.
According to U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wisconsin), chairman of the committee, the mission of the hearing was “to highlight these problems within our government agency, within our government laws and procedures, to make the public aware [and] lay out a reality so we can actually enact public policy to combat it and keep this homeland safe.”
Suffolk County has gained national attention after high profile murder investigations connected to the gang and a visit from U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions (R-Alabama) to speak on the topic earlier in May.
Sini, speaking alongside Det. Scott Conley of the Chelsea Police Gang Unit in Massachusetts and Chief J. Thomas Manger of Montgomery County Police in Maryland, outlined ways in which the federal government could assist local governments and better stamp out the escalation of gang activity. Some of Sini’s notable quotes from the testimony are below:
Since January 2016, Sini explained to committee members Johnson and U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Missouri), out of the 45 homicides in Suffolk County, 17 of those are believed to be linked to MS-13 gangs and approximately 400 identified MS-13 gang members are active in the county.
The commissioner has rolled out aggressive gang eradication strategies within the police department since becoming commissioner in 2016 to target particular communities where the gang is most active, like Brentwood, and stamp out the activities of its members. The strategy has led to 200 MS-13 arrests, Sini said.
In March, in collaboration with the FBI’s Long Island Safe Streets Task Force, the department arrested four gang members tied to the killings of Nisa Mickens, 15, and Kayla Cuevas, 16, Brentwood High School students beaten to death for “disrespecting the gang.” But, Sini said, it’s not enough.
“We recognize that our targeted enforcement and enhanced patrols will not alone lead to the eradication of gangs from our neighborhoods — MS-13 preys on our most vulnerable and if we do not provide the structure for these young people, MS-13 will,” Sini said.
The commissioner said the gang members in Suffolk County are predominantly male, between the ages 16 and 29, many of whom hold wage-paying jobs, differentiating themselves from other gangs.
“MS-13 often engages in violence for the sake of violence to increase notoriety of the gang and cause communities to fear the gang and its members,” Sini said.
By Rita J. Egan
George Washington and the Long Island Culper Spy Ring continue to make history on the North Shore.
A press conference was held May 18 on the lawn of the Brewster House in East Setauket after the installation of 26 signs along the Route 25A corridor from Port Jefferson To Great Neck, which now designate Route 25A as the Washington Spy Trail. One of the signs, unveiled at the end of the event, is located in front of the Brewster property.
The installation of signage and the designation comes after almost two decades of work on the part of the North Shore Promotional Alliance. The state road was chosen because President George Washington once traveled it to thank the patriots for helping him win the Revolutionary War, and it was also a route that spy Austin Roe used to pick up and deliver secret messages to military officer and spy Benjamin Tallmadge in Connecticut.
Gloria Rocchio, President of The Ward Melville Heritage Organization and North Shore Promotional Alliance, said that during the days of the Culper Spy Ring in the 1700s the Brewster House was one of only a few homes, and at the time of the American Revolution, the area was occupied by 300 British troops.
“Our community was divided between Loyalist and Patriots who supported the revolution in secret,” she said. “This history is the very history of America. Our efforts over the past 17 years have been to shine a light on our American Revolution and to encourage people to visit those important sites on the North Shore where history was made — the George Washington Spy Trail, Route 25A.
In addition to thanking her fellow members of the NSPA and others for their work, Rochhio acknowledged State Sen. John Flanagan (R-East Northport) and State Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) for introducing a legislative resolution in both the New York State Senate and Assembly that recognizes the dedication of the trail as well as the service of the spy ring members. On the same day, U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) and U.S. Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-Glen Cove) were presenting a similar resolution in congress.
Flanagan thanked those who gave up their free time to dedicate themselves to the project. The senator said he and the other local legislatures who were on hand for the event are proud of their towns.
“We brag about the places that we come from,” he said. “We like telling people about these types of things.”
Flanagan said he hopes that residents, as well as those who travel to the area will take advantage of the educational experiences the signs call out along the way.
When Englebright stepped up to the podium, he asked State Assemblyman Mike Fitzpatrick (R-St. James) to join him and said he appreciated the partnership with his neighboring assemblyman as well as Flanagan when it came to the legislative resolution that recognizes the area’s historical significance.
“This is a special place,” Englebright said. “Patriots lived here. People put their lives on the line as the first espionage ring for service to our nation.”
Englebright echoed Rocchio’s sentiments of the importance of the signs that pay tribute to the area’s history.
“The memorialization of that through this signage that Gloria referred to, is a chance for us to celebrate that reality, that wonderful beginning of our nation, the role that we played in it,” the assemblyman said. “It’s also important to give a sense of place and sense of context for this and future generations.”
Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) and Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) presented a proclamation to Rocchio, which made May 18 North Shore Promotion Alliance Day in Brookhaven. Romaine also reflected on the historical importance of the day.
“Today we remember our history,” he said. “Today we remember ordinary people, living ordinary lives, who were called upon to do extraordinary things.”
John Tsunis, Chairman and CEO of Gold Coast Bank and owner of Holiday Inn Express Stony Brook, introduced Harry Janson, Sr., who was wounded in Vietnam and received the Purple Heart, a medal that originated from Washington’s Badge of Military Merit. Janson, who is on the board of the Long Island State Veterans Home at Stony Brook University, said he believed the members of the Culper Spy Ring — Tallmadge, Roe, Robert Townsend, Abraham Woodhull, Caleb Brewster and Anna Smith Strong — were worthy of the award as well.
“The difference is the example of their bravery,” Janson said. “They performed their bravery in covert, and they took their secrets to their graves.”
Before unveiling the Washington Spy Trail sign in front of the Brewster House, Janson had the same wish as others who worked on the installation of the signage.
“We hope that many of you drive the trail and learn about these brave men and women, and what they did for our country,” Janson said.
Additional Washington Spy Trail signs include ones located on the westbound side of Route 25A at West Broadway in Port Jefferson, by the Long Island Museum in Stony Brook, before the Smithtown Bull in Smithtown and at Lawrence Hill Road in Huntington Station.
The temperature was high May 19 but that didn’t melt the enthusiasm of the nearly 7,000 students at Stony Brook University as they anticipated the moment they could turn their tassels and throw their graduation caps in the air.
The milestone event was chock-full of memorable moments including honorary degree recipients, Michael J. Fox — actor and advocate for a cure for Parkinson’s disease — and Jonathan Oringer — Shutterstock founder and a Stony Brook alumnus — clad in traditional caps and gowns, joining the students. Fox, who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 1991, received an honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degree for his acting career as well as establishing the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research. The university honored Oringer with a Doctor of Science degree for creating Shutterstock, the first worldwide subscription-based service for acquiring images, as well as his other contributions to the tech industry.
The first degrees awarded were to Oringer and Fox. Stony Brook University President Samuel L. Stanley Jr. introduced Oringer, a 1996 graduate of the university, as one who has “personified technologic innovation.”
As Fox approached the podium to deliver his speech, someone yelled, “Marty McFly.” The actor cleverly responded with a line from his 1985 movie, “Back to the Future.”
“You’re just too darn loud,” he said.
The actor said before that day he didn’t hold a degree from college or high school. He said he respects the university for its dedication to the sciences and its research.
Described by Stanley as a “fierce warrior in the fight to cure Parkinson’s disease,” Fox said he’s optimistic about the future.
“When I look out at the sea of red, I am filled with hope for you represent endless possibilities,” Fox said. “Among you may be the first human to walk on Mars, the engineer who will revolutionize the world’s energy technology, the next great investigative journalist who exposes political corruption, or the scientist who discovers a cure for Parkinson’s.”
U.S. Sen. and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D), also addressed the graduates and their families. Schumer advised the graduates to always take risks in life even when feeling uncertainty. He said to always “go for it.”
“The key is not to fear the unknown,” Schumer said. “Embrace it, relish it, soak up every possibility it has to offer.”
Among the nearly 7,000 graduates, ranging in age from 19 to 65 years old, in attendance, 42 states and 71 countries were represented. The degrees awarded included 4,292 bachelor’s, 1,999 master’s and 449 doctoral degrees.
One U.S. senator is hoping to cut off the flow of fentanyl to the many New York residents struggling with drug addiction.
U.S. Sen. and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York) announced support for a plan that would stop supplies of fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that is 50 to 100 times stronger than heroin and is not commonly reversed by Narcan, a lifesaving overdose drug, because of how quickly it enters the brain. The drug has come from China, Mexico and other countries into New York City and across the United States. Schumer also publicly decried a just-revealed White House plan to gut the Office of National Drug Control Policy’s budget by 95 percent.
“President Trump’s nonsensical proposal is the most destructive contribution he’s made yet to the fight against the opioid and heroin epidemic, and another clear sign he has no intention of keeping the promises he’s made to the American people,” Schumer said in a statement. “While candidate Trump pledged to ‘take care’ of Americans struggling with addiction and spend the money to succeed, his proposal to eliminate funding for programs, such as High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area and Drug-Free Communities — which are instrumental in aiding local enforcement drug trafficking in many communities in New York, at the southern border and elsewhere — would effectively kick Americans seeking treatment to the curb and make our communities less safe.”
In 2017, the office received $388 million, and under the Trump (R) administration’s proposal, the office would receive $24 million in 2018. The Office of National Drug Control Policy, which was authorized in 1988 with bipartisan support, currently directs the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas program, the National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign, the Drug Free Communities Program, anti-doping activities and the World Anti-Doping Agency. The proposed budget plan would also completely zero out the Drug-Free Communities and High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas programs, which provide substantial support to treatment, prevention and enforcement efforts on the ground.
“Senate Democrats will never vote to defund these vital programs, and I know there are many colleagues across the aisle who feel likewise,” he said. “I urge the President and Republicans in Congress to reject this proposal immediately.”
With fentanyl continuing its sprint onto the streets of New York City and Long Island, Schumer also launched a major push for the International Narcotics Trafficking Emergency Response by Detecting Incoming Contraband with Technology Act. The senator noted the bill is even more important now, with the Office of National Drug Control Policy’s funding on the chopping block.
“Fentanyl-laced heroin is devastating our communities and law enforcement needs to utilize every tool and technology to stop the flow of this deadly poison,” Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas said in a statement. “The act will help law enforcement prevent fentanyl and other synthetic opioids from entering the country and will be a great asset in our efforts to dismantle the networks of traffickers and dealers who are fueling lethal heroin addictions.”
The Schumer-backed bill, introduced by U.S. Sen. Ed Markey (D-Massachusetts), would give U.S. Customs and Border Protection the hi-tech tools and resources needed to improve detection capabilities and increase the seizure of illicit fentanyl shipped to the U.S. from abroad through mail and express consignment carriers. Schumer said he would work with his colleagues to take action on this issue that is destroying families in New York and the rest of the country, and do everything in his power to prevent Trump’s proposal to cut funds.
“These deadly substances are being delivered to our homes, being sold on our streets and destroying our families,” Schumer said. “We know how they get here and where they come from, now we need to give U.S. Customs and Border Protection the resources to stop this flood and help save lives.”
Although pharmaceutical fentanyl can be misused, most of the fentanyl being sold on the street is illicitly manufactured. While distributors in China are the principal source of the precursor chemicals used to manufacture the drug, as well as a source for finished-product illicit fentanyl and fentanyl analogs, Mexico is the primary source for illicit fentanyl smuggled into the United States. Fentanyl suppliers then use methods to mislabel shipments or conceal them inside legitimate goods in order to avoid Customs and Border Protection detection. In 2016, nearly 200 pounds of fentanyl and other synthetic opioids were seized, primarily from along the southwest border. This is a 25-fold increase of seizures in 2015.
In 2015, 753 people died of an opioid overdose and, as of April, that number was projected to hit 1,075 for 2016. The New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene says fentanyl is driving overdose death increases in New York City and is increasingly present in deaths from drug overdoses. There were 303 opioid-related deaths in Suffolk County in 2016, including 171 related to fentanyl. In Nassau County, there were 190 opioid-related deaths in 2016, including 62 related to fentanyl.
“Fentanyl is now killing more Long Islanders than even heroin is, and we know it’s only a matter of time before the next deadly synthetic opioid hits the streets,” said Jeffrey Reynolds, president and chief executive officer of the Family and Children’s Association, a not-for-profit agency that helps protect and strengthen vulnerable children, seniors, families and communities on Long Island. “As substance abuse prevention specialists and addiction treatment professionals work to reduce the demand for drugs, the act will help reduce the supply of synthetic opioids flooding across our borders, into our homes, schools and communities. This legislation is critical as we continue to battle an unrelenting opioid and heroin crisis.”