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Capito applauds funding for Appalachia high intensity drug trafficking areas

$2.5 million will fund the Heroin Response Strategy, an unprecedented partnership among five regional HIDTA programs to address the threat of heroin

$400,000 will advance drug use prevention initiatives in West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee and Virginia

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) applauded yesterday’s announcement from the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) that West Virginia will benefit from federal funding to tackle the rising heroin epidemic and advance drug prevention initiatives in the Appalachia region.

ONDCP Director Michael Botticelli yesterday announced $13.4 million in funding for High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTA) across the country. $2.5 million will fund the Heroin Response Strategy, an unprecedented partnership among five regional HIDTA programs — Appalachia, New England, Philadelphia/Camden, New York/New Jersey and Washington/Baltimore — to address the severe heroin threat facing those communities through public health-public safety partnerships across 15 states. The Appalachia HIDTA, which includes West Virginia, will also receive nearly $400,000 to advance a range of drug use prevention initiatives in West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee and Virginia.

“For the past several months, I have been working tirelessly with ONDCP Director Botticelli and officials at all levels to rein in the drug epidemic. This funding is an encouraging step in the right direction and will help the West Virginia families that have been devastated by drug addiction and the growing abuse of heroin,” said Senator Capito. “The Heroin Response Strategy – the first program of its kind in our region – will give local law enforcement and health officials the ability to work together across state and local lines to curb trafficking and improve treatment and prevention. While we still have a long road ahead, I am encouraged that we are making meaningful strides toward a drug-free West Virginia.”

Yesterday’s announcement comes on the heels of Director Botticelli’s visit to West Virginia at Senator Capito’s invitation. In June, Senator Capito hosted Director Botticelli in Morgantown for a roundtable focused on drug prevention efforts in West Virginia and the resources needed to reduce drug use.

In April, Senator Capito hosted a Drug Prevention Summit in Martinsburg with Michael Gottlieb, HIDTA’s National Program Director, and Tom Carr, Executive Director of the Washington-Baltimore HIDTA, who pledged to complete a needs assessment for an in-patient treatment center in West Virginia at the event.

“The High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas program helps federal, state, and local authorities to coordinate drug enforcement operations, support prevention efforts and improve public health and safety,” said Director Botticelli. “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. This Administration will continue to expand community-based efforts to prevent drug use, pursue ‘smart on crime’ approaches to drug enforcement, increase access to treatment, work to reduce overdose deaths, and support the millions of Americans in recovery.”

In addition to convening drug prevention officials for several discussions about combatting drug abuse, Senator Capito is pursuing solutions through legislation. In February, Senator Capito introduced the Stop Drugs at the Border Act of 2015 with Senator Donnelly (D-Ind.) to combat increased heroin and methamphetamine trafficking along the U.S.-Mexico Border. She is also a co-sponsor of The FDA Accountability for Public Safety Act, The Opioid Overdose Reduction Act of 2015 and The Protecting our Infants Act.

As a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Senator Capito has been a strong voice for HIDTA program funding. Eighteen counties in West Virginia are currently in the HIDTA Program. With Senator Captio’s support, the committee recently passed the FY2016 Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Bill, which includes $245 million for the HIDTA program – a significant increase over the president’s request for $194 million.

Background on the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas Program
Created by Congress in 1988, the HIDTA program serves as a catalyst for coordination among Federal, state, local and tribal law enforcement agencies operating in areas determined to be critical drug trafficking regions of the United States. Law enforcement organizations working within HIDTAs assess drug-trafficking issues and design specific initiatives to decrease the production, transportation, distribution, and chronic use of drugs and money laundering. 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.

Background on the 15-State Heroin Response Strategy:
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.

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