Massachusetts and the New England area will receive federal money to battle the influx of heroin into the region.
On Monday, Michael Botticelli, Director of National Drug Control Policy, announced $13.4 million in funding for High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTA) across the country, according to an announcement from President Obama’s Office of National Drug Control Policy.
Of this money, $2.5 million will fund the Heroin Response Strategy, an unprecedented partnership among five regional HIDTA programs —New England, Appalachia, Philadelphia/Camden, New York/New Jersey, and Washington/Baltimore — to address the severe heroin threat facing those communities through public health-public safety partnerships across 15 states.
The New England HIDTA also will receive $265,000 to advance a range of drug use prevention initiatives and to support HIDTA operations, the announcement said.
“The High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas program helps Federal, state, and local authorities to coordinate drug enforcement operations, support prevention efforts and improve public health and safety,” said Director Botticelli. “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. 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.”
Role of the HIDTAs
Each of the five HIDTAs will select two centrally located Regional Coordinators, one with a public health focus and the other with a public safety focus.
The Public Health Coordinator will oversee reporting of fatal and non-fatal overdose information as well as issuing alerts about dangerous batches of heroin and other heroin-related threats to health authorities, according to the announcement. This will help officials provide a rapid public health response to distribute the anti-overdose medication naloxone (also called Narcan) or expand resources in the affected area to help reduce the number of overdoses and prevent deaths.
The Public Safety Coordinator will oversee execution of public safety goals by making sure case support is provided where needed and intelligence is being provided to law enforcement authorities to enable disruption of the heroin supply.
As part of the effort, a heroin and prescription opioid training curriculum will be developed and provided to train municipal and rural police officers and first responders who do not have experience responding to heroin and prescription opioid-related incidents, the announcement said.
The five HIDTAs will also develop education and training strategies that will increase awareness of heroin and opiate addiction, create linkages to available prevention and treatment resources in the respective regions, and enable first-responders to report all leads developed from seizures and overdose responses, according to the announcement.
Congress created the HIDTA program in 1988 to help coordination between Federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement agencies operating in areas determined to be critical drug trafficking regions. There are currently 28 HIDTAs located in 48 states, as well as in Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the District of Columbia.