BATH, NY – Law enforcement leaders from Allegany and Cattaraugus counties joined with U.S. Rep. Tom Reed Thursday to announce support for legislation aimed at combating the opioid epidemic.

Reed, a Republican who represents the Greater Olean area in Congress, plans to reintroduce the Help Ensure Lives are Protected (HELP) Act, which would provide federal prosecutors with the ability to seek more severe penalties, including life in prison or the death penalty, when prosecuting certain criminal drug cases. The penalties would apply if prosecutors connect an overdose death to the drug dealer who sold heroin laced with fentanyl.

“The HELP act will give the law enforcement community another tool in their tool box to put a stop to this problem,” Reed said at a news conference at the Steuben County Courthouse. “However, this is only one piece of the puzzle. We have to have a multi-pronged approach to dealing with this issue to assist those suffering helplessly from addiction.”

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Among the additional programs Reed cited were 21st Century Cures, which provides $1 billion for grants to states to supplement opioid abuse prevention and treatment activities, and the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act, which provides $103 million for courts, substance abuse treatment, prescription drug monitoring and services for the mentally ill.

“The heroin problem is deeply impacting the communities across Cattaraugus County. I see the impact every day,” said Cattaraugus County District Attorney Lori Rieman. “The HELP Act is another weapon in fighting this ongoing battle.”

All western New York communities are being overrun with heroin and the effects of opioid addiction,” added Allegany County District Attorney Keith Slep. “From increased crime to overwhelming our limited emergency services resources, this nightmare has plagued us too long.”