Mouth That Roars

Bill Liblick has made a name for himself of National TV Talk Shows where he spouted his outspoken views from the front row. Now he offers you his opinion every week in the "MOUTH THAT ROARS" Column in the Sullivan County Post.

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July 30th, 2015

War on Drugs and Guns

This week’s drug sweep highlights the commitment that all of the agencies in Sullivan County have toward combating the scourge of drugs, guns and violence.

This operation, led by the FBI Safe Streets Task Force, combined the resources, intelligence and manpower of the following local agencies: the Village of Monticello Police, the Village of Liberty Police, the Town of Fallsburg Police, the New York State Police, the Sullivan County Sheriff’s Office and the Sullivan County District Attorney’s Office.

The leadership of all these local agencies must be commended for making a commitment to the task force and working together with their Federal counterparts to investigate, arrest and prosecute those involved in the distribution of heroin and cocaine in Sullivan County.

Thank you to our dedicated heads of our law enforcement community in waging this war for us.

District Attorney Jim Farrell, New York State Police Captain Jamie Kaminski, Sullivan County Sheriff Michael Schiff, Monticello Police Chief Robert Mir, Liberty Police Chief Scott Kinne, Fallsburg Police Chief Simmie Williams, New York State Police Superintendent Joseph D’Amico, must be applauded for all their efforts.

It is also good to see that the FBI and U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara are committed to continuing what has been started to make Sullivan County safe.
The year long investigation was comprehensive and the results were extraordinary: over 45 people charged with drug conspiracy and gun charges, 21 handguns seized, over a 1/2 a kilogram of cocaine seized and over 100 grams of heroin were seized.

Unfortunately, Sullivan County, like the rest of America has a serious drug problem. Non fatal overdoses and hospital admissions are up. Drug overdoses resulting in death are up. Heroin and prescription drug abuse use is common and is ripping apart lives and destroying families and from the looks of it cocaine is also in high demand. So what is the answer? How do we fix what has gone so terribly wrong?”

Certainly, law enforcement has an important role in addressing this serious problem confronting us. More resources and funding are needed to continue to disrupt and dismantle heroin and drug distribution rings, as District Attorney Jim Farrell described the sweep of this week.

Farrell told me, “Many of the local police departments have had their budgets cut and we are seeking the results of that – widespread proliferation of these dangerous drugs and the destroyed lives in their wake. The police must be given the ability to investigate these crimes and that requires funding. The legislature and local town and village boards should make it a priority to ensure that every law enforcement agency has the resources it needs to continue to remove these drugs from our streets. That is the supply side, but we also need to focus on the demand side.”

We need to make sure that we are educating our young people to the dangers and perils of these drugs to prevent addiction before it starts.

Farrell added, “Sadly, we as a society cannot seem to get our act together on this one. Mixed signals are sent to our youth when a state legalizes marihuana. Marihuana is OK, but not heroin or cocaine? Doctors prescribe synthetic opiates for every ache and pain.”

In 2010, Sullivan County had the highest per capita rate of prescriptions for oxycodone in the whole state (399 people per 1,000 are prescribed this drug).

According to Farrell, “We cannot tell our youth one thing but do another – it just doesn’t work. We need a consistent message that these drugs are harmful and we need to back it up with action. Why can schools in Pennsylvania and other states randomly drug test high school students who participate in sports and other extra-curricular activities and we cannot in New York? Random testing would identify abusers earlier and result in earlier intervention. Why are we so short sighted?”

We also need to make sure, on the demand side, that those who are addicted to these drugs are provided treatment to get them clean and sober.

Drug addiction is treatable and the likelihood of a positive outcome is extremely high. “We need to change people’s behaviors, but those who have serious opiate addiction need long term treatment, not a 28 day program. Studies have shown that for these serious drug addictions that probability of a full recovery is directly related to the length of time spent in treatment. Yet, insurance companies refuse to pay for long term treatment forcing families to choose between paying out of pocket, and the costs are very high, or bankrupting their family. No one should be facing this Hobbson’s choice and insurance companies should be covering long term treatment,” Farrell said.

Sullivan County has a Drug Court where non violent offenders who have committed crimes can be diverted into treatment mandated by the court.

Former District Attorney Steve Lungen was one of the founders of the Drug Court and Farrell thinks it plays an important role and saves lives, but says, “This court is not appropriate for those people who sell these drugs – it’s like placing the wolf in the hen house and I adamantly oppose any dealer from entering drug court, however, I don’t get the last word as the Rockefeller drug law reform took that power away from the DA and gave it to the Judge.”

Farrell also indicated that he would like to divert more people when they are charged in Justice Court with misdemeanor crimes and when the drug abuse is first detected and results in the person’s first encounter with criminal justice system but has been met with resistance. “This is an opportune time to intervene but individuals are refusing because they know the penalties they face in justice court are not as severe as when they are facing felony charges”, Farrell said.

Family members can be instrumental in making sure an addicted loved one is mandated in treatment as early as possible by requesting that their loved one be mandated into treatment.

EMS and law enforcement are now also carrying Naloxone, a drug that reverses an opiate overdose and has saved countless lives.

“However, again no one was thinking the use of this life saving drug through as is evidenced by a recent overdose in Onondaga County near Syracuse. Cicero police responded and saved a 19 year old overdose victim by administering Naloxone in late March. Less than 2 weeks later the same teen was found dead after an apparent heroin overdose.

Farrell asked, “Did this young man think that he would be saved no matter what he did because the drug had saved him before? And, why was he not mandated into treatment after the first overdose?”

“The law needs to be modified to ensure that with any deployment of this drug and a life saved that the person be mandated into treatment by a court. Naloxone, while saving lives, cannot do it alone.”

This problem is bigger that any one group or any one solution and it needs the entire community to come together to fight this literal plague on our society.

Law Enforcement, our Courts, EMS, families, health care providers, hospitals, mental health professionals, insurance companies, legislatures, town and village boards, public health officials, clergy, and schools cannot do it alone, we all need to do our part to combat the war against drugs.

Once again – thank you to our law enforcement community for their commitment to make Sullivan County a safer and drug free place to live.

Bill Liblick has made a name for himself on National TV Talk Shows where he spouted his outspoken views from the front row. Now he offers you his opinion every week in the “MOUTH THAT ROARS” Column in THE SULLIVAN COUNTY POST.

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