Top NYC drug prosecutor: Epidemic is getting worse

By John M. Annese Staten Island Advance

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — Despite a speck of positive news out of Staten Island this week, the city’s prescription drug abuse epidemic is getting worse, said the city’s top drug prosecutor.

Staten Island Advance/Jan Somma-Hammel

Special Narcotics Prosecutor Bridget Brennan speaks at a 2011 Staten Island press conference

with District Attorney Daniel Donovan, left, and Timothy Dewey, chief of the state Bureau of Narcotics Enforcement, right.

“I am sorry to report that the problem has not only failed to level off – it has worsened significantly over the past year,” said Special Narcotics Prosecutor Bridget G. Brennan, in testimony submitted at a City Council budget hearing today. “We are now in the throes of a full-blown epidemic.”

And Staten Island, again, remains the epicenter of the problem, “with the highest rates of prescriptions filled per capita and, correspondingly, it has the highest overdose rates,” she said.

“The good news is that the prescription rate in Staten Island appears to have leveled off, with the number of oxycodone prescriptions in the borough growing by only 3 percent in 2011, as compared to a 21 percent increase in 2010.”

Ms. Brennan is citing state health department data that shows 140,240 oxycodone prescriptions filled by borough residents last year, compared to 136,808 filled in 2010. By contrast, the rest of the boroughs showed increases of between 13 to 16 percent.

Data provided by the state Health Department to the Advance showed a similar trend — large increases in the other four boroughs — with one difference, a 1.5 percent decrease in prescriptions filled. That’s due to the way the information was gathered — Ms. Brennan’s statistics are based on where the patient receiving the prescription resides, while the data provided to the Advance was based on the location of the pharmacies where the prescriptions were filled.

The discrepancy means that Staten Islanders went off-borough to fill at least 17,000 oxycodone prescriptions, at a minimum.

Ms. Brennan also highlighted a heretofore-unpublicized March 2011 arrest made on Staten Island — authorities searched the Pleasant Plains home of Brando Franco, then 34, and found a well-fortified stash house, she said.

Federal agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement arrested him and his girlfriend mid-drug deal in Sayreville, N.J., just on the other side of the Outerbridge Crossing, Ms. Brennan said. They found a gun in his girlfriend’s car, and when they got consent to search his home at 6675 Amboy Rd., they found an AR-15 rifle, a 9 mm pistol, body armor, ski masks, sophisticated surveillance equipment, approximately 3,000 oxycodone pills, 30 grams of cocaine, and unspecified amounts of Xanax and anabolic steroids, she said.

A framed poster of Al Pacino’s “Scarface” hung prominently on the wall, Ms. Brennan said. His case is still pending in Manhattan Supreme Court.

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