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Heroin Epidemic Explored At Forum In Cortlandt

The Town of Cortlandt and Hendrick Hudson High School hosted a panel discussion called "Prescription Drugs and Heroin: What Our Community Needs To Know To Stay Safe." Photo Credit: Sam Barron
Sgt. Brian Ferrone said heroin arrests and seizures increased dramatically in 2013. Photo Credit: Sam Barron

CORTLANDT, N.Y. -- There is a heroin epidemic in the Town of Cortlandt.

The town and Hendrick Hudson High School joined forces on Tuesday to host "Prescription Drugs and Heroin: What Our Community Needs To Know To Stay Safe."

Heroin has led to two fatal overdoses in Cortlandt, a Montrose man being sentenced to 40 years for distribution and arrests throughout the count for heroin distribution. 

Panelists included Robert Kelly, who works in the Westchester District Attorney's Office; Colleen Anderson, youth center director for Cortlandt; Sgt. Brian Ferrone of the Cortlandt barracks and Jeffrey Veatch, who lost his son to a heroin overdose. The event was moderated by Ellen Morehouse, executive director of Student Assistant Services.

Kelly said his job, working as executive director for Westchester Intelligence Center is to investigate drug trends.

According to Kelly, there were 76 fatal overdoses in Westchester, with a  third coming from heroin. 

"We cannot just legislate and depend on enforcement," Kelly said. "We need prevention and intervention. We believe in treatment and re-education."

Chris Calabrese of the Westchester County Police said there has been a focused effort in the county to fight the heroin problem.

"We have seen an increase in heroin arrests," Calabrese said. "We've seen some tragic results."

Calabrese said they have 21 detectives working in Northern Westchester in conjunction with local police departments to root out narcotics.

"We are out there making strides," Calabrese said. "We can not just make the problem go away. It starts in your home, it starts in your family, it starts in medicine cabinet. Arrests don't make this problem go away, it has to be a full community effort."

The amount of heroin in Cortlandt has risen dramatically, according to figures provided by Ferrone.

In 2012, Cortlandt State Police seized 40.95 lbs of heroin, made 103 arrests for heroin possession and 43 arrests for dealing heroin.

In 2013, police seized 2200 lbs of heroin and made 1,084 arrests for heroin possession. Ferrone said police deal with calls about overdoses on a weekly basis.

Veatch has spoken to more than 11,000 kids about the dangers of drug use since his son Justin, who attended Yorktown High School, died of a heroin overdose at 17.

"It can happen to anyone," Veatch said.

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