Our View: New initiative is critical in fight against opioid crisis

A new initiative announced last week is taking aim at Kentucky’s opioid epidemic.

U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Kentucky Robert Duncan announced Friday that Eastern Kentucky, which includes Clark County, will be part of the new U.S. Department of Justice initiative.

The initiative, called Operation Synthetic Opioid Surge, will aim at reducing the number of synthetic opioids in areas that are impacted the most.

Likewise, the OSOS will seek to pinpoint larger distribution networks and international and domestic suppliers.

As reported by Kentucky Today, “the department is launching an enforcement surge in 10 judicial districts with some of the highest drug overdose death rates, including the Eastern District of Kentucky. In addition, the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces Executive Office will send an additional two-year term assistant United States Attorney to each participating district to assist with drug-related prosecutions.

“Each participating United States Attorney’s Office will choose a specific county and prosecute every readily provable case involving the distribution of fentanyl, fentanyl analog, and other synthetic opioids, regardless of drug quantity.”

By coordinating with the DEA, the initiative will look at street-level cases with hopes of pinpointing suppliers and large-scale distributors.

This initiative is a much-needed addition to the fight against the opioid epidemic.

Eastern Kentucky is one of the most high-impact areas when it comes to opioid use, abuse and deaths.

According to the 2016 overdose fatality report, more than 1,400 opioid-related deaths were reported that year; 1,248 were reported in 2015. And the numbers continue to increase in recent years.

A report released by the Appalachian Research Commission in March revealed residents in Appalachia, which includes Eastern Kentucky, are 55 percent more likely to die from drug overdose than the rest of the country.

With all this and more in mind, many initiatives have been implemented to tackle drug abuse and the abusers.

There are treatment programs and more to help prevent and stop use.

Lawsuits have been filed at the state and federal level to hold pharmaceutical companies and prescribers responsible for negligence.

Now, this initiative seeks to hold drug dealers accountable.

It is a critical facet of the fight against opioids in our state.

By finding dealers and tracing them to back to larger-scale international and domestic distributors, we can reduce the availability of these dangerous and deadly drugs.