LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Louisville has been chosen for a federal pilot program aimed at combatting heroin and prescription drug abuse as well as related violent crime.
Federal and city officials announced Wednesday that Louisville will be part of what the federal Drug Enforcement Administration is calling a “360 Strategy” to curb the opioid crisis, news outlets reported. The program is already in place in Pittsburgh, St. Louis and Milwaukee.
Federal funds will be used to form a Heroin Investigation Team consisting of Louisville police detectives and DEA agents that will investigate heroin overdoses as crime scenes.
Investigators are planning to crack down on local drug dealers, larger suppliers and track doctors at the center of pill mills.
Dealers whose drugs cause overdoses will now face a minimum 20-year prison sentence without parole, U.S. Attorney John Kuhn said.
“Our targets are not addicts … but the dealers who are willing to destroy lives for the sake of profit,” Kuhn said.
In addition to aggressively prosecuting dealers, the plan calls for the need to better educate the public on the dangers of pain pill reliance. One way in which the DEA has recently been trying to accomplish that goal in Pittsburgh is by staging a play that educates students about the dangers of experimenting with pills and other drugs, The Courier-Journal reported (http://cjky.it/2dnarg2).
“Who would think the DEA would be putting on plays, but it works,” said DEA Special Agent Patrick J. Trainor, spokesman for the administration’s Philadelphia Division, which includes Pittsburgh. “It’s effective in getting the word out. We’re ramping up awareness like never before.”
Jefferson County had 268 drug overdose deaths last year, more than any other Kentucky county. Of those deaths, 131 were heroin-related.