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Operation Engage Philadelphia

"Shawn R. Ellerman, Assistant Special Agent in Charge"
ASAC Shawn R. Ellerman

I am Shawn R. Ellerman, Assistant Special Agent in Charge of the Philadelphia Field Division and I’d like to welcome you to Operation Engage!

As we all know, there are far too many non-fatal and fatal drug overdoses affecting our communities, and sadly, these numbers are increasing. In response, DEA has moved toward community-level collaborative efforts to help reduce these numbers through education and awareness, using our wide range of resources.

Through Operation Engage, our division will focus on the Philadelphia community(s), targeting the fentanyl drug threat. Other components of Operation Engage include:

  • Stakeholder/Community Gatherings: To share the latest information about drug trends, drug threats, and other related pertinent information.
  • DEA’s Citizens Academy: DEA recognizes the importance of forging strong alliances with local communities and maintaining collaborative relationships with community leaders. DEA’s Citizens Academy offers participants the opportunity to understand the world of federal drug law enforcement and the important role the DEA and the community together, play in combating drug trafficking, drug misuse and related violence.
  • Youth Engagement: Through programs like the DEA Educational Foundation Youth Dance Program and in collaboration with CADCA and the Mark Wahlberg Youth Foundation, children of all ages will be able to actively participate in age-appropriate activities, designed for them to learn and gain the most knowledge about the dangers of drugs in a fun way.
  • Community Outreach Programs: DEA, along with stakeholder involvement, will concentrate efforts in the communities most affected by fentanyl use. In those targeted communities, the Philadelphia Field Division will participate in facilitating prevention strategies to include, but not limited to, drug prevention training and technical assistance for communities, coalition outreach, and prescription drug take back events to name a few.

These are only a few of the many resources and opportunities we have available to share with our communities.

I invite you, and your families, to explore our Operation Engage webpage to learn about the many resources we have available. Learning as a family, early on, is the first step in avoiding drug experimentation, drug misuse, drug addiction, and all related behaviors that are plaguing our communities.

Always at your service,
ASAC Ellerman

"Philadelphia skyline"Top Local Drug Threat

Fentanyl, a strong synthetic opioid, is the Philadelphia area's top local drug threat, according to local officials.

In 2019, there were about 1,150 drug overdose deaths in the city, according to the Philadelphia Medical Examiners Office. This is a slight increase from 2018.

Opioids - most frequently fentanyl - were detected in about 84% of the overdose deaths in 2019.


Local Overdoses

Within the past several years, the number of fatal opioid overdoses involving fentanyl have increased significantly.

In 2012, only 2% of opioid deaths involved fentanyl. In 2019, 94% of opioid deaths involved fentanyl.

See the chart below from the Substance Use Philadelphia website, based on data from the city.

Drug Information

What is Fentanyl?"fentanyl pills and powder"

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is 80-100 times stronger than morphine. Pharmaceutical fentanyl was developed for pain management treatment of cancer patients, applied in a patch on the skin. Because of its powerful opioid properties, fentanyl is also diverted for abuse.

Fentanyl is added to heroin to increase its potency, or be disguised as highly potent heroin. 

Read more.

Related: Learn more about fentanyl's effect on the nation from DEA's perspective in the National Drug Threat Assessment.

WATCH: As a nation, in spite of our differences we can all agree on one common enemy: drug addiction. Prevention works when we act early.

Here's a list of local organizations that provide services to the public regarding addiction, community empowerment, drug education and prevention, drug take back programs, recovery, and overall health and wellness. Check back soon for more additions!

Philly Hope Line (Uplift Center for Grieving Children)

Philly HopeLine is a free helpline sponsored by Uplift Center for Grieving Children and the School District of Philadelphia. It is staffed by Masters' level clinicians from Uplift, and is open to all School District of Philadelphia students & families.

If you feel lonely, stressed, sad, angry, or confused...

CALL OR TEXT FOR FREE 1-833-PHL-HOPE (1-833-745-4673)

Mondays – Fridays 12 p.m. – 10 p.m.

Holidays, Saturdays and Sundays 12 p.m. – 4 p.m. 

Looking for prevention resources specifically for young people? Go to the teen-focused site www.justthinktwice.com/. Here, they'll be able to get facts about drug use and learn ways to live a drug-free life.

In addition check out the local organization below.

Hip Hop Fundamentals

"Hip Hop Fundamentals logo"Hip Hop Fundamentals is group of local break dancers. In addition to their high energy performances, they get students involved through dance instruction. They do a great job interacting with the youth, while highlighting anti-drug messages.

Every Saturday, from 9:30 am - 10:30 am Eastern, the group is hosting a FREE dance class on Zoom for kids ages 5 - 12. Interested? Go to their site for more information!




Options Near You

Go to FindTreatment.gov to search for general drug treatment facilities in your area. On this site, you can find facilities that offer various payment options (including free and no-cost care), youth treatment facilities, special programs for Veterans, plus more.

Otherwise, enter your zipcode below to find substance abuse treatment facilities in your area.  

"naloxone graphic"What is Naloxone?

Naloxone is an opioid receptor antagonist that rapidly binds to opioid receptors, blocking heroin from activating them. An appropriate dose of naloxone acts in less than 2 minutes and completely eliminates all signs of opioid intoxication to reverse an opioid overdose.

Finding Naloxone in Philadelphia

In Philadelphia, you can get naloxone through either your doctor's prescription or through the statewide standing order written for the general public by Dr. Rachel Levine. Many pharmacies have the order on file, but you can also download it here.

Overdose Free PA’s website has a naloxone locator. Just enter in your address or zip code to find the nearest clinic or pharmacy.


Prevention Point Philadelphia is a local, private nonprofit organization that promotes health and safety in communities affected by drug use and poverty.

The group provides training at their location on how to use naxolone, the opioid overdose reversal drug, throughout the year. Get more information on their website.

Within the standing order, there are also instructions on how to use both Narcan and injectable naloxone. See them here.

The Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs also has information about naloxone trainings and more on their website.

"ADAC @ Home is partnering with RockReach Dance and DEA Educational Foundation to bring a free, five-week dance education program to youth ages 5-14! Youth are invited to join us this Spring on Friday afternoons April 16 - May 14 at 4:30pm to learn the foundations of jazz dance! No experience required."Pull Out Your Dancing Shoes!

Under Operation Engage, DEA partner Anti-Drug and Alcohol Crusaders (ADAC) is hosting a 5-week virtual dance program for youth with the DEA Educational Foundation and RockReach.

When? Friday afternoons April 16 - May 14 at 4:30 p.m. Eastern

Register: https://bit.ly/3shOHFh

Roundtable: DEA Prevention Efforts and Philadelphia Employers

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Philadelphia Field Division and the Milken Institute are hosting a private, virtual discussion of the public health crisis with the opioid epidemic, substance misuse and substance use disorder. Please register by April 7.

Date: April 14, 2021
Time: 10:00 am - 11:15 am Eastern

Register for the roundtable.

"The Boys & Girls Club of Chester, PA is hosting a Drug Free Communities Town Hall titled “Mental Health Matters in the Midst of a Pandemic” on April 22, 2021 from 6:00–7:30pm with panelist remarks, student voices, Q & A, and resources. "Virtual Town Hall: "Mental Health Matters in the Midst of a Pandemic"

The Boys & Girls Club of Chester, PA is hosting a free Drug Free Communities Town Hall titled “Mental Health Matters in the Midst of a Pandemic.” The event will feature panelist remarks, student voices, a question and answer session, and more. 

Date: April 22, 2021
Time: 6:00 p.m. - 7:30 p.m. Eastern 

Register for the event.


Take Back Day

"Take Back day logo"National Prescription Drug Take Back Day is a safe, convenient, and responsible way to dispose of unused or expired prescription drugs at locations in communities throughout the country. 

Date: April 24, 2021
Time: 10 a.m. - 2 p.m.
Where: locations across the country

For more information, visit the official Take Back Day website.


Free Virtual Prevention Training

"training graphic"DEA's Operation Engage Philadelphia is teaming up with CADCA to provide local substance misuse prevention coalitions and other identified key stakeholders with a rigorous, customized training experience designed to improve their capacity and effectiveness to address the substance misuse issues in their local communities.

This virtual training will also come with a free lunch for the first 100 registrants ($15 worth via GrubHub).

Dates: April 27 and 29, 2021
Time: 9:30 a.m. -12:00 p.m. Eastern

Register for the training.

Questions? Contact Robert Niczyporowicz by email at Robert.R.Niczyporowicz@usdoj.gov.

Connect With Us!

twitter logo
twitter logo

Stay up to date with the Operation Engage initiative in Philadelphia by following:

DEA Philadelphia's Twitter account @DEAPhiladelphia, and the hashtags:

#OpEngagePhilly and #EngagewithPhilly

Do You Have Any Questions, Concerns, or Feedback?

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