Nov. 29 (UPI) — U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Wednesday announced $12 million in grants, a field office and special coordinators to help law enforcement combat the opioid crisis.
Sessions appeared with Acting DEA Administrator Robert Patterson at the Department of Justice, where he announced new efforts to fight illegal manufacturing and distribution of methamphetamine, heroin and prescription opioids.
“Today we are facing the worst drug crisis in American history, with one American dying of a drug overdose every nine minutes,” Sessions said. “That’s why, under President Trump’s strong leadership, the Department of Justice has been taking action to make our drug law enforcement efforts more effective.”
The grants will assist law enforcement with $7.2 million going directly to agencies in eight states with high per capita levels of treatment admissions for opioids. That includes $1.4 million for the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, $1.3 million for the Vermont State Police and $1.1 million for the New York State Police.
The Community Oriented Policing Services Office will award $5 million to state agencies “that have demonstrated numerous seizures of precursor chemicals, finished methamphetamine, laboratories and laboratory dump seizures,” the department said.
On Jan. 1, the DEA will also establish a new division based in Louisville, Ky., to focus on illicit drug trafficking in Kentucky, Tennessee and West Virginia. Sessions said the divisions will include 90 special agents and 130 task force officers.
“By creating a new division in the region, this restructuring places DEA in lockstep with our partners in the area to do just that,” Patterson said. “This change will produce more effective investigations on heroin, fentanyl and prescription opioid trafficking, all of which have a significant impact on the region.”
By Dec. 15, every U.S. attorney will designate an opioid coordinator to work with prosecutors and local law enforcement officials to coordinate drug prosecutions.
“We need to use every lawful tool we have — and we will,” Sessions said at a news conference. “This department will continue to take whatever steps we deem appropriate and effective toward our goal of turning the tide.”
Last month, Trump declared the opioid epidemic a public health emergency.