CORTLANDT, N.Y. -- There is a heroin epidemic in Northern Westchester.
That was the message on Wednesday, April 9, as Walter Panas High School and the Town of Cortlandt hosted a community forum called "Prescription Drugs and Heroin: What Our Community and Schools Need To Know."
The forum featured a panel of experts providing various information about the critical drug issues facing the community.
"This is becoming a growing problem in our area and in the Northeast," Lakeland Schools Superintendent George Stone said. "This effects normal people facing everyday issues. The first step is to recognize the problem and we are working closely to address the problem."
Cortlandt Town Supervisor Linda Puglisi said it is a very serious issue facing the community.
"It is a crisis," Puglisi said. "It can hit home and in Cortlandt, it did hit home. We lost two fine young men. We are working together to make sure it doesn't happen. We are all committed to protecting the lives of our beautiful children."
The town plans on setting up a medical drop box at town hall where people could drop off their prescription medication.
"We have an epidemic in Northern Westchester," Yorktown Councilman Terrence Murphy said. "We need to address it. Kids are dying."
Murphy said Yorktown added another police officer in town to monitor narcotics. Murphy and others repeatedly stressed anyone can become a heroin addict.
"You would be surprised who is using this," Murphy said. "No family is immune to this. We're here to help and work with you. Take the blinders off. It's here, let's address it."
Robert Kelly, executive director of the Westchester Intelligence Center, said police are seizing thousands of prescription pills and heroin each day in the county.
Kelly said there has been an increase in heroin overdoses the last few years with 80 occurring in 2013.
"It's a challenge to stay ahead," Kelly said. "When heroin falls out of favor, something else will take its place."
Kelly said he believes in prevention and intervention and that treatment is the best solution.
"There is a role for law enforcement and prosecution, but it's not the ultimate solution," Kelly said.
Detective Will Mauro of the Westchester County Police said there had been 66 cases, 99 arrests and 91 buys of heroin by police in 2014.
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