Lawmakers push for stricter penalties for heroin drug dealers -

Lawmakers push for stricter penalties for heroin drug dealers

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Heroin overdoses stemming from an even stronger dose are being reported all over the state. Now local officials are coming together in hopes of making a difference.

"The new heroin that is around now is very powerful stuff. Its very destructive and it's the disease that is completely ripping apart our youth," said State Senator, Jeff Van Drew.

On Friday three people suffering from an overdose on this heroin were treated at Cooper Hospital in Camden. But there are hundreds on the verge of overdosing even closer to home.

"They are being exposed at the middle schools. Twelve and thirteen year olds to heroin."

In Cape May County, just over the weekend three overdoses were reported; two of them under the age of 25. None of them were fatal, however the Prosecutor says these younger overdoses are a concern that need to be dealt with.

"If you look at the statistics, since 2006 over 150% of the growth in the number of people under 25 are seeking treatment for heroin abuse," said Cape May County Prosecutor, Robert Taylor.

It's because of these numbers that some state lawmakers are teaming up to enforce stricter penalties. According to officials, the degree of the crime is based on the weight of the drug.

This new heroin holds more power in a smaller dosage.

State officials hope to put those supplying the demand behind bars with these stricter laws.

"Those that are convincing our young people to use heroin. Those that are in gangs that are making a great deal of money from the distribution of heroin," said Van Drew.

As for the addicts, officials want to get them help through medication and rehab instead of flooding the state jails. For example, those already getting aid at John Brooks Recovery Center in Atlantic City.

"We have a good total of 700 people being treated for heroin addiction right now. About 20% of them are under 25," said C.E.O. Alan Oberman.

But through education, officials hope to inform the youth, and emphasize how dangerous this drug is by going to each school in the area starting in September.

The Narcotics Task Force in Cape May County is currently working to find out where people are buying these drugs, and how they can stop it.

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