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Obama Calls For More Federal Funds To Battle Heroin Crisis; Suffolk County Says They're Needed

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork)-- President Barack Obama has asked Congress for more than $1 billion to combat the opiate and heroin epidemic.

As CBS2's Dick Brennan reported, Obama is calling for the expansion of drug treatment centers across the country to stem a crisis that is taking the lives of tens of thousands. Recovering addicts said the help is badly needed.

Obama wants better training of doctors and more research to find effective treatments for the growing number of Americans addicted to opiates such as oxycodone, or heroin.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the number of deaths from those causes has quadrupled in the last decade. In 2014, there were close to 29,000 opiate and heroin deaths in the U.S. – more than the number of Americans killed in car crashes.

At a news conference in support of the president's proposal, police quoted equally grim statistics for Suffolk County.

"About 68 people year-to-date have died of a drug overdose, and most of them are going to be opiate-related," said Suffolk County police Chief Gerard Gigante.

Heroin users are doing everything they can to get their hands on the drugs, authorities said. This includes breaking into people's homes and businesses to get cash to fund the harmful habit.

Suffolk County police Presiding Officer DuWayne Gregory told WCBS 880's Sophia Hall the county needs some of the federal funds to help get programs needed for addicts.

"And that's what this funding does, it goes to treatment programs, it also goes to prevention. So part of the strategy is to encourage, and we've done this at the local level but we need to do it more, encourage drug take back programs," he said.

There are currently not enough beds at drug treatment facilities to meet the demand, Gregory said.

With suburban heroin use exploding, WCBS 880 has spotlighted the scourge for years, covering the devastation to families and the spawning of a new generation of desperate addicts turned to crime. The death toll is only climbing.

Recovering addicts agree that more funding is needed. Inside an outpatient clinic in Smithtown, many of the 200 recovering addicts were hooked on heroin.

Several of them spoke to CBS2, though they did not want to be identified beyond their first names. One woman named Michelle said she turned to heroin for pain relief after she broke her back in a car accident.

"I stole from my friends. I stole from my family. I stole from my job. I lied. I cheated," she said. "I did what I had to."

Michelle said with the help of the clinic, she has been clean for six months now.

Fellow outpatient Jaden has also been clean for months. The former high school athlete said heroin robbed him of his identity.

"You lose the sense of you," he said. "You no longer have a personality. Your personality is the drug."

Obama wants Congress to approve $500 million alone to support and create more drug treatment centers, which providers said is severely lacking.

"When we're completely full at capacity, we can almost never find additional beds anywhere throughout the state to treat this problem," said Warren Zysman of ACI Rehab.

Early indications show there is bipartisan support in Congress for the president's proposal.

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