ST. LOUIS (AP) - The federal Drug Enforcement Administration is enlisting health care providers, civic groups and parents of overdose victims in the St. Louis region as part of what it calls its “360 Strategy” to combat heroin and prescription drug abuse and related violent crime.
St. Louis is one of four communities nationwide targeted by the new DEA effort, along with Pittsburgh, Milwaukee and West Memphis, Arkansas. Federal officials unveiled the local program at news conference Thursday morning at the agency’s downtown office.
Speakers cited a rash of statistics showing the growing dangers of opioid abuse. More than 47,000 people nationwide died from such drug overdoses in 2014. That total exceeds the number of yearly deaths from guns and car crashes.
“These are our families, our friends, our neighbors and our co-workers,” said James Shroba, special agent in charge of the St. Louis DEA office. “We can’t arrest our way out of this problem.”
Shroba declined to discuss the strategy’s overall budget but said it will include a $2 million public information campaign. Among the participating organizations is the St. Louis County-based National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse, which produced a 2015 Super Bowl ad showing a mother finding her son dead of an overdose in his bedroom.
That fictitious scenario mirrors the real-life horror felt by Kim Carmack, who discovered her 19-year-son Connor’s body in the basement of their St. Charles County home two years ago. Three people have admitted to selling the heroin that killed him and await sentencing in federal court.
“It takes everybody to get this under control,” she said. “This is an epidemic. Our kids are dying.”
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