Christopher Goldrick, director of the Rockland County Drug Task Force speaks during a news conference at the Nyack Plaza apartments Jan. 20, 2011. A major drug sweep in the area lead to the arrest of 12 people on drug related charges. / Peter Carr, The (Westchester County, N.Y.) Journal News
WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. -- A heroin epidemic claiming the lives of young adults locally and across the nation is continuing despite a crackdown on suppliers and increased efforts to warn users of the drug's deadly effects.
This week in the Lower Hudson Valley, there were three deaths - Thomas Coogan, 23, of Buchanan; Whitney Delhay, 28, of Dobbs Ferry and Tyler Seger, 19, of Cortlandt - suspected to be from heroin overdoses, though toxicology results have not yet confirmed the causes.
Dozens of area young people have died of heroin overdoses in the past few years, including four young men from Putnam and Westchester counties in late 2012. Christopher Goldrick, director of the Rockland County Narcotics Task Force, said Rockland has had "well over a dozen, if not more," overdose deaths in the past four years.
In western Pennsylvania, at least 17 recent deaths have been blamed on tainted heroin. Carmel police last fall attributed four overdoses, including one fatality, to a "bad batch" of heroin. And in Vermont, Gov. Peter Shumlin devoted his entire State of the State address Jan. 8 to what he called Vermont's "full-blown heroin crisis."
Locally, the epidemic is frustrating police and parents.
"Three kids in a week. When are they going to learn?" asked a Croton-on-Hudson father whose 24-year-old daughter, a recovering addict, was profiled by The Journal News last spring under the assumed name Kristina.
The father contacted a reporter Friday because he's seen too many of his daughter's friends die from heroin in recent years. At the time, Kristina had already lost seven friends to heroin, including her 25-year-old best friend, who overdosed while The Journal News was profiling her.
"Aren't they afraid of what's happening to their friends?" he said. "It doesn't make any sense to me. Once they take that needle and stick it in their arm, don't they know that could be their last breath?"
Peekskill police Chief Eric Johansen said he viewed the threat from two perspectives.
"As the father of a son who just became a teenager, it's one of my greatest fears that he could become involved with this," Johansen said Friday. "Then I look at it from a law-enforcement perspective and I say, 'We've got to come up with a way to solve this epidemic.' We are committed to targeting dealers, working with other agencies and using every available resource we have to stem the flow into our community and surrounding communities."
Tyler Seger was a 2012 graduate of Hendrick Hudson High School, where he played on the school's lacrosse team, said his father, Raymond Seger.
"He was a wonderful person," Raymond Seger told . "He was fantastic. He just tried, and he loved everyone in his family. I can't believe the epidemic going on in this county and this town. Things need to change."
Many teens start out stealing their parents' prescription drugs, then graduate to stronger narcotics, including the opiate-based painkiller oxycodone. But those pills can cost $30 or more each on the street.
"They go to heroin because it's cheaper. Now you're seeing people you would never expect to see getting hooked," said Capt. William Barbera of the Rockland County Sheriff's Office.
"They're hooked on prescription drugs but when the prescription runs out, they switch to $5 and $10 bags of heroin," Goldrick of the Rockland Narcotics Task Force said. "We've been seeing this for years."
Contributing: Mike Dougherty and Lee Higgins of The Journal News.
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Read the original story: Heroin epidemic plagues N.Y. suburbs