High cost of heroin epidemic

Posted at: 02/24/2014 5:52 PM
Updated at: 02/24/2014 6:32 PM
By: Kumi Tucker

ALBANY -- Heroin use is on the rise; people are snorting it, shooting it, and abusing it.

Albany County Sheriff Craig Apple says the heroin epidemic is costing taxpayers millions of dollars.

"You arrest a guy who is probably stealing, burglarizing, robbing to feed his habit," said Sheriff Apple. "So now you're going through the district attorney's office, the public defender's office, the county sheriff's office. You're feeding them. You're taking care of his health care, everything else. Factor all of that in. Now, you've got to get him into some sort of specialty program. Somebody's got to pay for that."

Acting Supreme Court Judge Gerard Maney runs a family treatment court in Albany County. Half the adults in the program are opiate-dependent, and that's a huge increase in the last year.

"We've seen a big rise in the use of opiates altogether, a big rise in prescription drugs such as Hydrocodone, OxyContin," said Judge Maney.

"Recent changes in New York State where they can't buy as many of the prescription pills as they could, now forces people who have money to go to heroin, which has now become available on the market cheaper, the high is stronger, and very, very addictive."

Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin devoted much of his State of the State address to the heroin crisis in Vermont.

The number of people in treatment went up 250% in Vermont since 2000, with the greatest percentage increase, nearly 40%, in just the past year, he said.

The number of people who died from a heroin overdose in Vermont nearly doubled last year.

Sheriff Apple does not think we will actually see the full effect for years. He says taxpayers will be paying for all the long-term health problems.

"If you take the whole criminal aspect of it, take the health aspect of it and then all the residuals such as the treatment down the road, you're talking millions of dollars," said Sheriff Apple. "And we're just talking about an area that's not really that big."