White House Launches New Strategy, Funds to Combat Heroin Epidemic
This week the White House announced the commitment of $13.4 million for High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTA) to target heroin and opioid painkiller trafficking and supporting treatment and prevention efforts.
Michael Botticelli, Director of National Drug Control Policy, who announced the funds and the new Heroin Response Strategy, “demonstrates a strong commitment to address the heroin and prescription opioid epidemic as both a public health and a public safety issue.”
The Heroin Response Strategy provides $2.5 million for an “unprecedented partnership” among five regional HIDTA programs, Appalachia, New England, Philadelphia/Camden, New York/New Jersey, and Washington/Baltimore, spanning fifteen states.
Approximately $4 million in HIDTA funds are being dedicated to prevention efforts in 18 regional HIDTA programs, leveraging partnerships between law enforcement agencies and their counterparts in public health and education.
To combat drug trafficking, $1.3 million in HIDTA funds are being dedicated to five regional HIDTA programs along the southwest boarder. Approximately $500,000 will be dedicated to regional HIDTA programs in six states addressing drugs on tribal lands.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R), whose state of Kentucky has been battling the heroin and opioid epidemic praised the announcement of the HIDTA funds.
“One of the most salient points I have learned from studying prescription drug and heroin abuse is that multi-jurisdictional and multi-agency law-enforcement efforts, such as the Appalachia High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area, or HIDTA, are crucial to our success,” Sen. McConnell added. “I have no doubt that this new funding will enhance law enforcement’s ability to fight heroin in some of the areas, such as Kentucky, that have seen communities and families ravaged because of this drug. In this era of limited federal resources, we must use these interagency partnerships to maximize our return from the federal dollars we spend to combat this epidemic.”
The shift in the Administration’s drug policy to not only focus on enforcement but also public health stem from alarming statistics on heroin deaths.
The rate of heroin-related overdose deaths nearly quadrupled between 2002 and 2013, with over 8,200 heroin-related deaths in 2013 alone, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Heroin use by people in the 18-25 age group has more than doubled in the past decade, according to the CDC.
Rising heroin use across the nation is attributed to plentiful prescriptions of opioid painkillers on the streets and in family medicine cabinets. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) reports that many abusers of painkillers turn to heroin because of lower prices.
At a House Judiciary Committee hearing in July, Jack Riley, DEA acting deputy administrator said that over half of the 120 daily drug overdose deaths in the U.S. are from heroin and prescription painkillers.
"I've been with [the] DEA almost 30 years, and I have to tell you, I've never seen it this bad," Riley told lawmakers.
Meanwhile, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently approved OxyContin for children as young as 11 years old, a decision harshly criticized by West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin (D), who called for a Senate investigation into the decision.
“I have pleaded with your agency since I became a senator almost five years ago to cease the flood of painkillers that is killing so many people in my state and around the country,” Manchin wrote in a letter to FDA acting Commissioner Stephen Ostroff.
“We have years of evidence that shows that drug use at an early age makes a child more likely to abuse drugs later in life,” Manchin wrote to the FDA. “You have ignored all of this. Instead, under your new guidance, we are literally poisoning our children’s brains and setting them up for future drug abuse.”
Posted in General News