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U.S. Attorneys and Federal Law Enforcement Leaders Conduct Summit to Target Heroin and Opioid Trafficking and Overdose Epidemic

AUG 26 (DETROIT) - U.S. Attorneys and leaders of federal law enforcement agencies from across six states met in Detroit on August 26, 2015, to share strategies to combat the heroin and prescription pill epidemic across the region. 

The effort was announced jointly by U.S. Attorneys Barbara L. McQuade, Eastern District of Michigan, Kerry Harvey, Eastern District of Kentucky, Patrick A. Miles, Jr.; Western District of Michigan, Steven Dettelbach,  Northern District of Ohio, Carter Stewart, Southern District of Ohio, John Kuhn, Jr., Western District of Kentucky, David J. Hickton, Western District of Pennsylvania, William C. Killian, Eastern District of Tennessee, David Rivera, Middle District of Tennessee, Edward Stanton, Western District of Tennessee, William Ihlenfeld, II, Northern District of West Virginia, and R. Booth Goodwin, II, Southern District of West Virginia; Directors of High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTA) Abraham Azzam, Michigan, Derek Siegle, Ohio, and Frank Rapier, Appalachia; Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Special Agents in Charge Joseph P. Reagan, Detroit Division, Karl Colder, Washington, D.C. Division, Gary Tuggle, Philadelphia Division, and Daniel Salter, Atlanta Division; Special Agent in Charge Paul M. Abbate, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Detroit Field Office; and Special Agent in Charge Marlon Miller, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), Detroit.  U.S. Attorney Hickton also co-chairs the national Heroin Task Force. 
  
The summit was called in response to the national epidemic of heroin and prescription pill abuse that has hit Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, Pennsylvania and West Virginia, particularly hard.  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. 

In the Midwest, opioid deaths have increased 62 percent.  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.     

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 (OCDETF) 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.           

The initiative also includes a commitment by each U.S. Attorney to engage in district-wide anti-heroin and prescription pill programs.

Daniel Salter, Special Agent in Charge, DEA, Atlanta Division, said, “The abuse of prescription pills, heroin, and fentanyl, an opioid 30 to 50 times more potent than heroin, has become a problem of epidemic proportions across the United States.  This epidemic affects people of all backgrounds with no respect to race, gender, age, or socio-economic class.  DEA and our federal, state and local law enforcement partners are committed to attacking the drug trafficking organizations that distribute these poisons in our communities without regard to the deadly consequences of their actions.”

U.S. Attorney Killian said, “Tennessee has one of the highest rates of prescription drug abuse in the country.  However, like many other states, we are now seeing a rise in heroin use as the prescription drugs are becoming more expensive and difficult to obtain. This summit was convened to help find ways to strengthen the coordinated efforts of local, state and federal law enforcement in their fight against these growing addictions and the resulting rise in overdose deaths.”
 
The DEA encourages parents, along with their children, to educate themselves about the dangers of legal and illegal drugs by visiting DEA’s interactive websites at www.justthinktwice.com, www.GetSmartAboutDrugs.com and www.dea.gov.

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