ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) – On Thursday, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer announced that Schenectady County had been officially designated as a High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area. The county requested the designation after experiencing record opioid overdose death rates for two years running, in 2020 and 2021.

The announcement comes following a visit by Schumer to the Addictions Care Center in Albany in June, where he spoke on work to gain more resources for opioid addiction treatment and recovery. The Office of National Drug Control Policy granted Schenectady County’s designation following a wave of four fatal opioid overdoses in Schenectady over the span of a single week in June.

“We must do everything we can to stop the opioid crisis from wreaking more havoc to public health and well-being across the Capital Region and New York State, and this designation will help do just that,” said Schumer in an announcement. “I will not stop fighting to supercharge funding for this program and addiction services further to reverse the tides on this recent overdose wave, and get people the help they need and fight the flow of drugs in our communities.”

The designation is intended to help Schenectady County get more equipment, technology and federal intelligence resources, in order to step up the fight against opioid abuse and overdoses. The designation will share drug use prevention and treatment programs and initiatives with the city and county of Schenectady.

Schumer pointed out that Schenectady’s central proximity to Albany and Troy makes it a convenient location for drug trafficking. The designation will also help ground-level law enforcement to purchase equipment like narcotics analyzers.

“Drug dealers exploit the easy access to Schenectady via train and an extensive highway and interstate system that flows north, south, east and west through our county and the capital district,” said Schenectady County District Attorney Robert Carney. “The County law enforcement and its citizens welcome the commitment of federal funding, increased sharing of intelligence, analytical support, enhanced training opportunities and even more cooperative efforts between local, state, tribal and federal partners.”

Schumer also said that the HIDTA designation would connect Schenectady County’s public health teams with easier access to Naloxone kits, used by first responders to reverse the effects of opioid overdoses. In 2021, Schenectady County EMS used Naloxone in response to over 250 overdose cases.

Schumer is also pushing for an increase of $3.2 billion to be invested in National Drug Control Strategy. That includes $85 million for CDC harm reduction services, $63 million for first responder training, and 10% of total funds reserved for SAMHSA Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Block programming.