Usually, drug arrest sweep stories are pretty straight forward in the North Country, so Miranda Orso’s report this morning for the Plattsburgh Press-Republican makes for some interesting reading.
Franklin County officials rounded up 20 individuals for allegedly using or selling drugs illegally. That’s pretty standard fare for the region. What’s unique is the narrative offered by officials for the source of the drug problem.
Malone’s village police pointed the finger at the growing problem of prescription drugs, particularly those purchased using Medicaid dollars.
“I would say prescription drugs are probably 60 percent of our arrests,” Malone Village Chief Chris Premo said. “These are all prescription drugs that these people are being prescribed by local doctors.”
That’s serious stuff. And while officials say they are investigating to determine whether Medicaid fraud occurred, there’s no word yet on any effort to investigate doctors.
Meanwhile, Franklin County district attorney Derek Champagne put forward another provocative argument for these arrests, suggesting that at least some were made necessary by reforms to the Rockefeller drug laws.
“It is unfortunate that changes to the laws would appear to have opened new markets for heroin and cocaine in rural upstate New York,” he said. “If the dealers believe they can distribute without facing significant incarceration, then we need to educate them to the contrary.” He said his office will continue to identify dealers who deserve state prison and work toward lengthy sentences.
The legislature’s decision to downscale lengthy mandatory minimum sentences for low-level drug offenders was opposed by most district attorneys in New York. But this is the first time I’ve heard a North Country official connect drug arrests to the change.