WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) applauded the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) Aug. 17 for granting additional funding for West Virginia’s designated High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTAs) to address the recent surge in heroin trafficking and overdoses and to help reduce drug abuse. A total of $2.5 million will fund the Heroin Response Strategy, a partnership among five regional HIDTA programs — Appalachia, New England, Philadelphia/Camden, New York/New Jersey, and Washington/Baltimore — to address the growing heroin problem through public health-public safety partnerships. The Appalachia HIDTA, which serves communities in West Virginia, will also receive an additional $400,000 for a range of drug use prevention initiatives.
There are currently 18 West Virginia counties that are designated as HIDTAs: Boone, Berkeley, Brooke, Cabell, Hancock, Harrison, Kanawha, Lincoln, Logan, Marshall, McDowell, Mercer, Mingo, Ohio, Putnam, Raleigh, Wayne and Wyoming.
“The health and safety of our families and communities in West Virginia depend on ending the drug abuse epidemic,” Senator Manchin said. “Not only must we continue to combat the prescription drug problem, but we also must face the growing number of heroin overdoses and drug trafficking cases. This program will foster an important partnership between 15 states that are being devastated by the rising heroin epidemic, and it will tackle the problem from every angle. I will continue to do everything in my power to aggressively curb these trends in our state, and that includes making sure our law enforcement officers in high risk communities have the necessary federal resources to address drug trafficking and abuse.”
Through the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Program (HIDTA), the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) provides support and financial resources to law enforcement agencies operating in areas determined to be critical drug-trafficking regions of the United States. There are currently 28 HIDTAs located in 48 states, as well as in Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the District of Columbia.
The Heroin Response Strategy will foster a collaborative network of public health-public safety partnerships to address the heroin/opioid epidemic from multiple perspectives. The Strategy will enhance the efficacy and efficiency of the criminal intelligence process in support of cooperative law enforcement operations. The five HIDTAs will create a 15-state network of experienced, connected law enforcement contacts and leverage these connections and information-gathering capabilities with a strong, complementary, analytical capacity.
The five HIDTAs will select two centrally located Regional Coordinators, one with a public health focus and the other with a public safety focus, who will manage and oversee implementation and operation of the Heroin Response Teams. The Public Health Coordinator will oversee regional reporting of fatal and non-fatal overdose information and issuing of relevant alerts regarding dangerous batches of heroin and other heroin-related threats to health authorities. This will mobilize a rapid public health response to distribute naloxone or expand resources in the affected areas, helping to mitigate the number of overdoses and prevent deaths. The Public Safety Coordinator will oversee execution of public safety goals by ensuring case support is provided where needed and intelligence is being disseminated to relevant law enforcement authorities to enable disruption of the heroin supply.
A heroin and prescription opioid training curriculum will be developed and used to prepare rural and municipal officers and first responders who are inexperienced responding to heroin and prescription opioid-related incidents. To assist communities in coping with this escalating problem, the five HIDTAs will develop Education & Training strategies that will increase awareness of heroin and opiate addiction, create linkages to available prevention and treatment resources in the respective regions, and enable first-responders to know how to report all pertinent lead information developed from seizures and overdose responses.
The Heroin Response Strategy builds upon the successes of the 2014 symposium hosted by the Washington/Baltimore HIDTA. Each year, the five HIDTAs will host two, two-day State of the Region symposia at a jointly nominated HIDTA. These symposia will build additional structure within each respective HIDTA region for the attendees to maintain regular contact and continue their public health-public safety partnerships between symposia. The aim will be to facilitate collaboration between public health and public safety partners within and across jurisdictions, sharing best practices, innovative pilots and identifying new opportunities to leverage resources.