The Hudson Valley continues to fight the opioid epidemic, but few areas have struggled with it as much as Sullivan County. Now, the county’s district attorney is looking for federal support.
Sullivan County is on the front-lines of the dangerous and deadly epidemic. It has one of the highest overdose death rate in New York state. Last year, there were 218 overdoses and 24 deaths within county lines.
Sullivan County’s struggle with opioids has been a long fight. In 2021, the county’s opioid overdose death rate was 108% higher than the state average.
Yet, it’s not getting as much help as other continues in the Hudson Valley. It’s not designated as a high-intensity drug trafficking area, or HIDTA.
“Every county in the Hudson Valley region is designated as a HIDTA area short of Sullivan County, which is unconscionable considering that we have the highest overdose rate per capita outside of New York City,” Sullivan County Acting District Attorney Brian Conaty said.
Local leaders are trying to change that, saying HIDTA designation opens up more resources from the feds and Drug Enforcement Administration.
“We're going to need every resource to fight this epidemic, and we'd really be able to work with our surrounding counties that have already been designated HIDTA areas and work jointly and collaboratively in this effort,” Conaty said.
He said the area is seeing a lot of trafficking coming from over the New Jersey border and New York City.
While county leaders hope the HIDTA application is approved, they say they’ve shifted strategy to combat the problem.
“We've started the Hope Not Handcuffs initiative that we brought over from Michigan, and that's going to facilitate long-term inpatient treatment for the end users," Conaty said. "So that way, we can help cut the rate of recidivism. In addition, we are starting a new initiative from the opioid settlement funds. They've repurposed to fund overtime that's needed to further investigations.”
This is the third time Sullivan will try to be designated. Conaty says previous applications haven’t clearly defined how Sullivan County’s issue have affected surrounding counties.
“So in this application, we're really going to demonstrate that the drugs are being trafficked through our county and that individuals are coming to our county to actually purchase these narcotics,” Conaty said.