They came from across Orange County to peddle prescription drugs on the street in Newburgh, and they targeted people in recovery as their clientele, officials say.
On Thursday, Orange County law enforcement officials announced charges filed against 22 people in Operation: Clinically Addicted. District Attorney David Hoovler said each of the dealers sold some kind of pill – including methadone and oxycodone as well as benzodiazepines – on street corners near the Center for Recovery treatment clinic. One man sold cocaine, and one woman sold Adderall, a stimulant. All but one defendant faces a felony charge of criminal sale of a controlled substance. The sole exception is charged with criminal sale of an imitation controlled substance, a misdemeanor.
Hoovler made the announcement in a parking lot at the corner of Dickson Street and Commercial Place, next to the clinic whose clientele was targeted by the dealers. He was accompanied by Sheriff Carl DuBois, Social Services Commissioner Darcie Miller and Linda Muller, CEO of the Greater Hudson Valley Health Center, which operates the clinic.
“Within the four walls of that building they (people in recovery) seek sanctuary, and they seek help for their problems,” Hoovler said. “They’re essentially being attacked by predators, who are trying to sell them more drugs.”
Hoovler said other sales to undercover officers took place at neighboring apartment complexes where kids live and play, and near a day care less than 1,000 yards from the clinic. "Concerned citizens" contacted law enforcement to report dealers targeting people in recovery.
“We’re not going to tolerate that,” he said. Only two defendants have prior felony convictions, Hoovler said, and most should be eligible for court treatment programs. Where appropriate, prosecutors will seek incarceration.
Hoovler said this is Orange County’s first large-scale drug interdiction focusing on pills, but it won’t be the last. The operation demonstrates that drug addiction is a public health problem, not just a law enforcement issue.
DuBois pointed out the proximity of the drug sales to the Newburgh Armory, which houses youth programs.
“It’s right there. A stone’s throw away,” he said.
Miller lauded the work of the Center for Recovery, and noted that people who are in recovery are at most risk of fatal overdose when they relapse.
Muller said the clinic is fully accredited and assesses every client for an individualized treatment program. The dealers presented yet another barrier to recovery for the clientele. Making sure patients are treated in a safe, nonthreatening environment is a number one priority, Muller said.
“Imagine trying to reach a stable place in your recovery, and then being preyed upon when you leave that place,” she said.
August 28, 2015