- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 21, 2017

The Justice Department announced Thursday the creation of a new senior level position tasked with overseeing efforts to combat the nationwide opioid epidemic.

The director of opioid enforcement and prevention efforts will help oversee the implementation of DOJ initiatives, policies, grants and programs related to opioids and coordination with law enforcement, according to an announcement.

No one has been tapped as the director yet, but Attorney General Jeff Sessions said the creation of the new position was necessary given the breadth of the opioid crisis.

“With one American dying of a drug overdose every nine minutes, we need all hands on deck,” Mr. Sessions said.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, 63,600 people died from drug overdose deaths in the United States in 2016. Of those, 42,249 overdose deaths were attributed to opioids.

The creation of the new position at the Justice Department comes after officials have announced a series of initiatives meant to target the opioid epidemic. Mr. Sessions previously announced a directive requiring each U.S. Attorney’s Office to appoint an opioid coordinator who will oversee the intake of all cases involving opioids, heroin and fentanyl. The coordinator will also be tasked with overseeing task forces that will identify relevant cases, organizing training for prosecutors on opioid issues, and tracking statistics on prosecutions in their district.

Justice Department also announced it would provide $12 million in funding for state and local law enforcement that will be used for drug investigations involving of heroin, opioid or methamphetamine.

And the Drug Enforcement Administration last month announced its intention to realign resources and establish a new DEA field division that will oversee areas of the Appalachian region that have struggled with drug abuse issues in recent years.

The new division, based in Louisville, Kentucky, will be responsible for areas in Kentucky, Tennessee and West Virginia and will provide additional resources for investigations into heroin, fentanyl and prescription opioid trafficking.

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