Schumer: HIDTA Changes ‘A Deadly Mistake’

Local officials say efforts to change the High-Intensity Drug Trafficking Area program could be detrimental to the county.

U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-NY, called the proposed changes a “deadly mistake.” Schumer announced in a press release that the administration’s budget proposal would basically get rid of the HIDTA office, move the program administration from the Office of National Drug Control Policy and relocate it to the Justice Department.

The purpose of HIDTA is to reduce drug trafficking and production in the U.S., as well as encourage cooperation between federal, state and local law enforcement agencies. The program also allows agencies to share information and implement coordinated enforcement activities.

Schumer said this could result in “needless bureaucracy and inefficiency” that would lead to less effective anti-opioid policies and would put lives at risk in Upstate New York.

“There is no question that Upstate New York needs the partnership and resources from the federal HIDTA initiative and they need it working in its current form,” he said. “The proposal in the administration’s budget to shuffle the deck and bury the HIDTA office within the bowels of the Department of Justice, outside the direct purview of the White House, would be akin to putting New York’s law enforcement on hold when they make a call to the feds for real-time help.”

Schumer said the funds for Upstate New York are currently administered by the Office of National Drug Control. Currently, Schumer said Upstate New York receives more than $15.9 million in HIDTA funding. Chautauqua County, Dutchess County, Putnam County and Rockland County have received $1.1 million in funding since 2014.

Chautauqua County Sheriff Joe Gerace said he is “discouraged” by these efforts. Gerace said he worked hard with Schumer to get Chautauqua County designated under the program. He said he is hopeful the program will be allowed to continue as is since it has been helpful for the county.

“It gives us access to federal resources and it’s extremely important nationwide,” Gerace said. ”

Gerace said the county received the designation in 2014.

Despite what happens at the federal level, Gerace said the Sheriff’s Office will continue to deal with the opioid epidemic in a two-prong attack; by dealing with the supply as well as the demand. He said it is important to not only take on the dealers and supply of drugs, but also help alleviate the demand for the drug with support and education.

“We need to be involved in both,” Gerace said.