Erie County District Attorney John Flynn is ramping up the fight against the growing opioid crisis by restoring a standalone narcotics bureau. Nineteen days into the new year, there have been 19 suspected overdose deaths in the county.
Flynn says public officials have an obligation to try and do something about the epidemic.
"On my end, as a prosecutor, I can do two things. I can put the drug dealers away in jail for as long as possible and I can help those who are addicted get treatment and the help that they need," Flynn said at a news conference Thursday.
According to the Erie County Health Department, it is likely that when all testing is complete for last year, the data will show a more-than 200 percent increase in the number of overdose deaths in the county between 2014 and 2016.
"We now have three full-time prosecutors who are working with law enforcement throughout the country, federal and state, going after the drug dealers and prosecuting them and putting them behind bars, where they belong," Flynn said.
The DA says if an individual addicted to opioids is committing non-violent crimes, they should be treated, rather than prosecuted. He says prosecutors will try addicts that fall into that category the "care and treatment" that they need.