WASHINGTON – Attorney General Eric Holder announced today the launch of a public awareness campaign at a Federal Interagency Drug Endangered Children (DEC) Task Force event to bring attention to the challenges faced by children and families affected by drug abuse and highlight the work being done across the country to address these issues. Following opening remarks by Deputy Attorney General James Cole, Administrator Michele M. Leonhart of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) moderated a panel discussion, featuring Attorney General Holder and actors Jim True-Frost (“Prez”), Wendell Pierce (“Bunk”) and Sonja Sohn (“Kima”) from the HBO hit series, The Wire. Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) Director Gil Kerlikowske delivered closing remarks.
Focused on protecting children from drug abuse and exploitation, the public awareness campaign will emphasize the important role law enforcement officials, health professionals, educators and community leaders play in helping first responders identify whether a child is endangered by drugs, as well as the resources available to assist vulnerable children.
“This public awareness campaign will highlight the risks posed to drug endangered children across the country and empower communities to better serve children exposed to drug abuse, trafficking and addiction by their parent or childcare provider,” said Attorney General Holder. “Protecting youth from exposure to drug abuse is a key priority for this department, and we are unwavering in our commitment to raising awareness about this vital mission and continuing our efforts to assist the most vulnerable victims of the illicit drug industry.”
“In collaboration with our federal, state, local and tribal partners, we are creating a more cohesive strategy to support communities to better respond to the special needs of drug endangered children,” said Deputy Attorney General Cole. “The DEC public awareness campaign will help strengthen our multi-faceted approach to serve children and families devastated by drug abuse.”
“Protecting drug endangered children is an essential tool to combating crime and safeguarding our communities,” said DEA Administrator Leonhart. “Children exposed to drug abuse are more than 50 percent more likely to be arrested as juveniles, so it is critical that we play an active role in preventing children’s exposure to drug abuse, as well as better serving children who are victims of drug abuse when it does occur.”
“Too many of our Nation’s children are at serious risk from drug use and its devastating consequences,” said Gil Kerlikowske, Director of National Drug Control Policy. “This task force will help break the cycle of abuse and neglect by providing vital services for drug endangered children. By offering valuable tools and encouraging collaboration across local organizations, we will be better able to rescue, protect and serve the victims of drug-related crimes.”
The DEC Task Force includes more than eight federal agencies and more than 80 participants. Following the task force’s kick-off meeting in May 2010, the DEC Task Force established multidisciplinary, multijurisdictional teams to assist communities with at-risk children. These teams include representatives from law enforcement, child protective services, health professionals, educators, victim services specialists, child advocates and the courts.
In coordination with the public awareness campaign, the DEC Task Force will launch a website providing resources to federal, state, local and tribal partners to better serve children endangered by drugs. The website can be viewed at: www.whitehousedrugpolicy.gov/Children.