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Press Release

U.S. Attorney’s Office Presents Community Summit, Law Enforcement Seminar to Address Opiate Abuse and Addiction

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Northern District of Alabama

BIRMINGHAM – The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Alabama is presenting law enforcement training on the illegal diversion of prescription opioid drugs and a community summit focused on seeking solutions to the problems of opioid abuse and addiction as part of National Prescription Opioid and Heroin Epidemic Awareness Week, which begins Sunday.

Dr. Stephen M. Taylor, an addiction and recovery specialist who serves as medical director of the National Basketball Association’s drug testing and treatment program, will be the keynote speaker at the community summit on Friday, Sept. 23, in Birmingham. Taylor has worked as a licensed and board-certified general, child/adolescent and addiction psychiatrist for 20 years.

 President Barack Obama today proclaimed Sept. 18-24 as National Heroin and Opioid Abuse Awareness Week to focus the nation’s attention on the burgeoning problem of abuse, addiction and overdose deaths associated with heroin and prescription opiate painkillers.

“Heroin and opiate drug addiction are at crisis levels in our community, as are overdose deaths,” said U.S. Attorney Joyce White Vance. “This problem demands a community-wide response, and we are hard at work in north Alabama bringing together law enforcement, educators, the medical and treatment communities, and prevention specialists to engage with affected individuals, their families and their employers,” she said.

“This week, my office is hosting events to enhance our prosecutions of people who make these drugs available in our communities, while also working to educate the community, particularly our youth, on the dangers of these drugs, and to develop strategies to increase treatment resources.”

The U.S. Attorney’s Office and the federal Drug Enforcement Administration’s Birmingham Field Office have joined together to present the Drug Diversion Training Seminar to law enforcement Monday on the Shelby County Campus of Jefferson State Community College. More than 100 local, state and federal law enforcement members are expected to attend the one-day training.

The seminar will focus on investigating and prosecuting the diversion of legal drugs, primarily opioids, for illegal purposes. DEA Deputy Chief of Staff Michael Ben’Ary will present the seminar’s morning session, discussing use of the federal 20-year mandatory minimum penalty in cases where it can be proven that a defendant sold a controlled substance that resulted in an overdose death. Assistant U.S. Attorney John Meynardie from Southern Mississippi, who has had marked success in building diversion cases, will present a case study during the afternoon session.

 Members of law enforcement may register for the training at

On Sept. 23, the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Public Health and the Jefferson County Department of Health, as part of the Pills to Needles Initiative, will present a community summit to focus on building solutions to the heroin and prescription opioid problem.

“Pills to Needles Summit 2.0: Building Solutions” is a follow-up to the 2014 Pills to Needles summit that focused on raising awareness of the growing epidemic of opioid abuse, addiction and overdose deaths.

Summit 2.0 is designed to engage participants from diverse backgrounds in conversations about building solutions to the heroin and prescription opioid problem in our community. The program will include an update on the Pills to Needles Initiative and the status of opioid addiction in our community, as well as panel and community discussions focused on prevention, education, and treatment access and options. 

 Friday’s summit will be from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Harbert Center, 2019 Fourth Ave. North. It is free and open to the public. Use this registration link to find more information about the event. You can also register for Summit 2.0 by visiting the Pills to Needle’s website,

Summit 2.0 will conclude with a special viewing of the FBI-produced documentary, Chasing the Dragon: The Life of an Opiate Addict. The 45-minute film, whose title refers to the never-ending pursuit of the original or ultimate high, is designed to help educate students and young adults about the dangers of opioid addiction.

Pills to Needles is a community collaboration initiated by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in 2013. Its mission is to create a comprehensive and responsive community infrastructure to address heroin and prescription drug abuse.

Updated September 16, 2016