White House To Combat Rising Heroin Deaths With New Program

| by Ethan Brown

The increase in fatalities from heroin use throughout the United States has been noticed by the federal government, and the White House has pledged $5 million in grants to help the most affected areas of the nation.

The plan would unite law enforcement workers with public health employees to promote a greater need of treatment for addicts rather than prosecution and jail time. Overall, $13.4 million will be spent in 28 areas which Congress has labeled High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas, USA Today reported.

The areas hit hardest by the heroin epidemic are primarily located in the eastern part of the nation. From Washington D.C. to the states of New England, the federal government will supply funding to local law enforcement and federal agents to combat the rising use of one of the deadliest drugs in existence. $2.5 million will be used for the most affected areas in the east, according to the White House’s Director of National Drug Control Policy.

“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,” Michael Botticelli, the policy’s director, said in a statement on Aug. 17.

The deaths resulting from heroin overdoses have quadrupled in the period between 2002 and 2013, according to NBC News. One explanation for this is that prices for prescription medications have increased significantly while the cost of heroin remained relatively low. Thus, people become hooked on painkillers -- which have been prescribed more and more frequently over the recent years -- only to later switch to the cheaper alternative of heroin.

The White House's program calls for 15 drug intelligence officers and 15 public health employees to research data on overdoses and heroin trends in the badly affected areas. First responders will also be trained to use medication that can reverse the possible deadly effects of overdosing.

“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,” Botticelli added.

Counties in Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Delaware, the nation’s capital, Virginia, West Virginia, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Tennessee, Rhode Island and Kentucky are among those that the government will focus on.

Republican Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky praised the decision.

The plan “is a positive development for Kentucky’s efforts to fight the use of heroin that is hitting the commonwealth particularly hard,” he said.

Sources: NBC News, USA Today

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons, Melissa Johnson/Flickr