NYPD officer shot, critically injured on Staten Island

Staten Island DA brutally honest about borough’s heroin problem (Part 2)

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STATEN ISLAND (PIX11) -- When PIX11 Investigates sat down in the office of Staten Island District Attorney Daniel Donovan on Monday morning -- right after we launched our series, Heroin: A to Z -- the borough’s lead prosecutor didn’t mince any words about the heroin crisis there.

“We have firefighters, school teachers, honors students, who are now heroin abusers,” Donovan told PIX11 candidly. “That image we have of the 70’s and the early 80’s of a heroin abuser is not the heroin abuser of today.”

Donovan said even physicians are getting addicted to heroin, in the wake of a prescription drug crackdown in the last couple of years.

That led desperate, opioid addicts to seek out heroin, which is far cheaper—and gives a similar high—allowing them to avoid withdrawal symptoms, from not having pills.

“There was this false belief that these things were safe to take, because they were in your family’s medicine cabinet,” Donovan said of the painkillers that were commonly used and abused on Staten Island in the last decade. Young people produced a viral video about the wonders of Percocet, the 30 mg blue pill. Oxycontin rings popped up all over the borough.

“We have firefighters, school teachers, honors students, who are now heroin abusers,” Donovan told PIX11.

“We have firefighters, school teachers, honors students, who are now heroin abusers,” Donovan told PIX11.

Once the pill supply dried up, because of a New York State crackdown, heroin dealers realized there were huge profits to be made on Staten Island and elsewhere in the city.

Suddenly, heroin was available in every community on Staten Island.

“The heroin came to them,” Donovan said about the addicts, who would frequently buy their drugs in stores located in the many strip malls on the Island. “You would just text the supplier, and they would dispatch, just like you were ordering a cab.”

“Text—and deliver,” Donovan said. “You didn’t have to leave the neighborhood. It would come to you.”

34 people died of heroin overdoses on Staten Island in 2013. 32 of them were white, a representation of an epidemic that’s striking the middle class very hard on Staten Island and in many Long Island communities.

Donovan said he’s established drug courts to try and help the addicts get treatment.

“Now we realize if we deal with their addiction, we can extract them out of the criminal justice system, help them with their problems, and if they’re successful, we’ll never see them again.”

If the addicts who get arrested successfully complete their treatment, the District Attorney will dismiss their case, and they get a clean slate.

But the District Attorney knows heroin is a vicious addiction to recover from.

Later this week, PIX 1 News will look at the battle over insurance money for appropriate length of care in rehab centers.

Digital producer: Jeremy Tanner

8 comments

  • patti holtermann

    My 30 yr old son from great kills overdosed 4 days after a 6 month rehab stay in florida, that cost me over 40,000. Thank god i was able to get his heart started & ems saved his life. My son was blue when heard something fall. It was him, 2 weeks later his girlfriend who also was in rehab overdosed & died. She was 33 & 3 credits away from her masters degree in education. We need to put a stop to this horrible situtation on staten island. My son is currently back in florida .

    • Eva Miller

      I am so sorry for your pain and suffering I would love to volunteer in helping to stop this epidemic let me know what I can do

    • Mary Murphy

      Patti, Thank you very much for writing. I am so very sorry for what you have been through and I am sorry for what your son is going through. Doing this series has taught me that this addiction is brutal. Understanding and compassion is needed. I am sorry to hear about your son’s girlfriend, and I hope that your son will find the strength and support to make a full recovery.

      • Ralph

        Dear Mary,
        I want to thank you for bringing this to the attention of millions of people. It is truly an epidemic. My name is Ralph and I am the father of Ralph who you featured in a couple of your segments. On behalf of my wife and I, THANK YOU for showing him in a positive light as he continues to fight his addiction. He wants nothing more than to have a normal productive life that so many of us take for granted. His addiction has been very difficult for us as parents. While no family is perfect, Ralph was raised in what could be considered a very stable, loving, positive household. Initially we blamed ourselves; we must have done something wrong, how could we not know what he was doing? Once we realized that blaming ourselves was not helping the situation, we put that behind us and we focused on how we can best help him and keep this disease from tearing our family apart. At times, we felt powerless as we tried to help him, knowing that it is his choice to stay clean. We are currently going through a family program at St. Christopher’s that we hope will help our family and aid in his recovery. We know we have a long, hard road ahead, but we are staying positive and saying a lot of prayers.
        Thank you and WPIX for this very informative and well done series,
        Ralph

    • JOEYMOOTZADELL

      LADY I FEEL TERRIBLE FOR YOU AND YOUR SON AND THE ENTIRE SITUATION. IM FROM STATEN ISLAND AND MY HABIT STARTED THERE. I SEE A LOT OF KIDS GOING TO THESE PLACES IN FLORIDA. MY COUSIN WHO IS A GIRL WENT THERE AND HER FATHER DROPPED HIS ENTIRE LIFE SAVINGS TO SEND HER THERE. FORTUNATELY IT WAS THE BEST THING TO EVER HAPPEN TO HER… BUT SHE NEVER LEFT FLORIDA AND SHE LIVES IN A HALFWAY HOUSE THERE WITH OTHER ADDICTS. SHE WORKS AND LIVES THERE PERMANENTLY AND THEIR ARE DRUG TESTED THERE. IM SORRY TO SAY THIS BUT AS LONG AS YOUR SON LIVES IN STATEN ISLAND THE CHANCES ARE REALLY SLIM. THE PLACE IS INFESTED AND THATS THE WAY IT IS. UNFORTUNATELY WHERE YOU LIVE IS 1 OF THE WORST AREAS AND IM SORRY THAT YOU GOT STUCK THERE. BUT I JUST HOPE YOU ARENT ONE OF THOSE PEOPLE WHO ALL OF A SUDDEN WANTS TO STEP UP TO THE PROBLEM AND ABOLISH ALL DRUGS ON STATEN ISLAND JUST CUZ OF YOUR SONS SITUATION. YOU ARENT THE ONLY MOTHER OUT THERE WHOSE SON HAS A PROBLEM…

  • Stephanie

    Mary, I just finished watching all of “Heroin: A to Z”. Thanks to you and PIX11 for airing this story. It hits very close to home and was hard to watch. I grew up in the Annadale section of SI. I still live on SI, though no longer in annadale, and use the public transportation. I see what goes on in my own community. I know people who struggle with addiction to this terrible substance. I could go on for pages about what i have witnessed and how it has effected people i love. Though I can respect the hard work that gets illegal and abused painkillers off the streets, it has only exacerbated the heroin problem. Dan Donavan, the DEA and other law enforcement and elected officials are working hard, but without education, their efforts will be fruitless and this epidemic only stands to get worse. We need laws that will require insurance companies to pay for extended treatment programs and we need programs both public and private for children and adults to educate them about the harmful effects and consequences of drug use. Something more needs to be done. Opiates have been around for thousands of years and will continue to be around. Patient programs for those struggling with this addiction and education are the only way i can see this situation improving. I would be willing to help in any way i can. I also struggle with abuse/addiction, though not with opiates, i still had to learn and continue to learn new healthy coping mechanisms and life skills. i know this would be a step in the right direction in battling the heroin problem. the only question i have is where do we start?

      • Mary Murphy

        I also would like to reply to Ralph, the father of the young man (also Ralph) that I interviewed at St. Christopher’s Inn. Ralph, Sr.–I can tell you that your son really touched me with his story and he is a lovely young man. He told me that you–his parents–did everything RIGHT. He said that he simply succumbed to peer pressure, because it was hard feeling like the outsider–and it was hard not being part of the “cool” crowd. Unfortunately, the “cool” crowd often is not doing cool things–and the crowd is not around, when things go bad. Ralph–your son’s goodness is evident, and I wish you and your family many blessings in the journey ahead. If you would ever like to reach me, you can write me at mmurphy@pix11.com. Thank you for reaching out. You have a nice son, and I’m rooting for him.

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