- The Washington Times - Monday, August 17, 2015

The White House on Monday announced a $2.5 million initiative to address rising heroin use across the Northeast by, for the first time, pairing public health workers and law enforcement in order to incorporate treatment options into crackdown efforts.

The partnership will span 15 states from New England to Washington, D.C., and help public safety officials better share information about heroin use in order to track where the drug is coming from, monitor deadly heroin overdoses and provide training to first responders on handling overdoses.

The new efforts are a response to the increase in heroin use across the United States over the last decade. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the rate of heroin-related overdose deaths nearly quadrupled between 2002 and 2013. More than 8,200 people died in 2013.

Health officials believe opioid painkiller abuse is one of the main drivers of the recent uptick heroin use in recent years, with the CDC noting that 45 percent of people who used heroin were also addicted to prescription opioid painkillers.

“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,” said Michael Botticelli, director of National Drug Control Policy. “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.”

The new partnership will aim to inform law enforcement officers more quickly when batches of heroin laced with other deadly drugs are detected so they can act to track down the source of the drugs. Heroin laced with fentanyl, an opiate used during surgeries, has been linked to a series of recent fatal overdoses.

The partnership will also help to more widely distribute medications used to reverse the effects of a heroin overdose to first responders to help prevent overdose deaths.

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