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Federal Agents in 6 States Convene to Combat Heroin

Federal law enforcement agencies from six states, including Kentucky, convened in Detroit this week to share strategies to combat heroin and prescription drug abuse.

The regional summit was called "unprecedented" in a news release.

Kerry B. Harvey, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Kentucky was part of the summit that included representatives from West Virginia, Ohio, Michigan, Tennessee, and Pennsylvania.

The summit was called in response to the national epidemic of heroin and prescription pill abuse that has hit Kentucky and other states in the region particularly hard.

"The criminals who are trafficking in opiates are inflicting an increasing toll on communities throughout Kentucky and the nation,” said Harvey. “These predators have established sophisticated distribution networks to deliver their poisons to the streets of our communities. Our meeting of federal law enforcement agencies from across the Midwest represents an important milestone in the effort to fight back. We intend to closely collaborate across state lines to disrupt the pipeline through which these dangerous drugs flow and to bring to justice those who profit from this criminal conduct."

One of the purposes of the summit is to discuss a regional strategic initiative as part of the federal Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force program. Under this initiative, law enforcement and prosecutors across the region will investigate and prosecute the movement of heroin and prescription pills from Michigan and Ohio into Kentucky, Tennessee, West Virginia and western Pennsylvania.

This effort includes action by the U.S. Attorneys’ Offices, DEA, FBI, HSI, the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (“ATF”) and the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigations (“IRS-CI”). As part of the initiative, the three HIDTA programs in the region (Michigan, Ohio, and Appalachia) will work with their federal, state and local partners to increase enforcement of heroin and pill trafficking and to target drug distribution that results in overdoses and deaths.

From 2013 to 2014, drug overdose deaths increased in Kentucky, according to the annual overdose fatality report by Kentucky’s Office of Drug Control Policy. The report also stated that, of all the drug overdose deaths autopsied in Kentucky in 2014, opiates were detected in more than half of the deceased.

The initiative also includes a commitment by each United States Attorney to engage in district-wide anti-heroin and prescription pill programs. The summit seeks to target this national and regional problem by dismantling drug trafficking organizations that distribute heroin and prescription pills and by increasing prevention and educational efforts. Over the last three months, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Eastern District of Kentucky has held multiple trainings for local, state and federal law enforcement and other first responders who work the scene of an overdose death. At these trainings, the U.S. Attorney’s Office aimed to increase awareness on federal drug laws and discuss further collaboration in fighting the epidemic.

Heroin overdose deaths in the United States have tripled from 2010 to 2013. Nationally, the number of deaths from all drug overdoses exceeded 43,000 last year, more deaths than from traffic accidents. Heroin use in the United States has doubled from 2007 to 2012.

-Staff report

Photo: Kerry Harvey (provided)

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