Legislation Addresses Ocean County’s Heroin Epidemic [AUDIO]
In response to the spike of over dose deaths in Ocean County, largely attributed to heroin and prescription drugs, 10th District legislators are proposing two bills aimed at strengthening drug laws.
Senator Jim Holzapfel, and Assemblymen Dave Wolfe and Greg McGuckin met with Ocean County Prosecutor Joseph Coronato to address the influx of heroin and prescriptions in the area, largely responsible for the 71 drug overdose deaths in 2013 so far. It's a drastic increase from the 53 overdose deaths for the entire year of 2012.
Senator Holzapfel says a bill they are pushing for would target dealers by basing drug charges on the amount of "units" on a person, rather than the total weight of the drugs.
"You could theoretically pick somebody up who has hundreds of bags of heroin and the total weight of that amount is not necessarily going to get him or her the most severe punishment," Holzapfel said.
Additionally, the 10th district legislators are partnering with Senator Chris Connors of the 9th district to introduce legislation to increase participation in the electronic Prescription Monitoring Program. The program collects data on controlled prescription drugs that are dispensed, and is intended to cull dangerous and addictive prescription drugs getting on the street through abuse of the legal prescription system.
Holzapfel says prescription drugs are becoming a gateway drug towards heroin abuse, and is further exacerbated by the popularity of prescriptions driving down the price of heroin.
"Prescription drugs, the Oxycontin etc., the prices on them can be as much as twenty or twenty-five dollars a pill, whereas with heroin at five dollars a bag, it's a lot cheaper."