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Press Release

Community leaders announce progress in fight to combat drug abuse

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

HEELING, WEST VIRGINIA – A diverse group of community leaders from across the Ohio Valley joined United States Attorney William J. Ihlenfeld, II, today to highlight the progress of the United States Attorney’s Addiction Action Plan.

According to Ihlenfeld, the Action Plan is a comprehensive, multidisciplinary approach to combat drug abuse and overdoses. The Action Plan was formed in the fall of 2014 and community leaders in the Ohio Valley announced their recommendations last December. The Action Plan incorporates eight subcommittees, led by experts from various fields including education and news media, treatment and recovery, and law enforcement and community corrections.

“It has become increasingly clear that a traditional approach to combatting drug abuse, focused on arrests and prosecutions, is not enough,” noted U.S. Attorney Ihlenfeld. “Drug dealers have found increasingly entrepreneurial ways to capitalize on the unforgiving grip of addiction. The CDC announced this week that heroin use in the United States has increased by 62% over the last decade. We must respond with new and innovative ideas to reverse this trend. I am thrilled that a diverse group of thought leaders from the Ohio Valley has come together to find creative ways to combat drug abuse and save lives. They have made significant progress in recent months and I look forward to seeing what comes next.”    

The Action Plan subcommittees announced several tangible results achieved to date, including:

News Media and Education. Student leaders from across the Ohio Valley have envisioned and designed an innovative series of viral marketing awareness videos with support from the Education and News Media Subcommittees. These videos will be distributed on social media and displayed at various school and community events. The Wheeling Nailers hockey team will partner with the Action Plan to play these videos at games during the upcoming season. The first video in the #ThisIsHeroin series premiered in early July 2015 and has already gained significant traction on YouTube and social media.

Medical. With support from the Medical Subcommittee, the U.S. Attorney’s Office recently hosted the 2015 West Virginia Prescriber Education Conference to better education physicians and pharmacists on best practices for prescribing and dispensing narcotic medications. Michael Botticelli, the Director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, delivered the keynote address at the conference. The event was well-attended by substance abuse professionals, physicians, and pharmacists.

Treatment. The Treatment Subcommittee recently launched the website which provides a simple roadmap to treatment by providing a comprehensive directory of substance abuse treatment resources in the Ohio Valley. The website has had nearly 1,000 visitors since it launched in March 2015. The Treatment Subcommittee is also partnering with the Wheeling Police Department to develop a crisis intervention training program for the officers. Further, the Treatment Subcommittee has developed a Justice Reinvestment Program that services Marshall and Ohio Counties. The program has already provided substance abuse treatment for 20 individuals diverted from drug and mental health courts, parole, and/or probation.

Community Corrections. In the continued effort to find creative alternatives to traditional criminal prosecutions, the Community Corrections Subcommittee was instrumental in developing and launching the first Federal Drug Court in West Virginia.

Enforcement. Law enforcement officials are also improving how they investigate and prosecute drug trafficking. The U.S. Attorney’s Office provided training to local law enforcement, encouraging the development of standardized best practice for investigating a drug overdose. This has led to an increased emphasis on the investigation and prosecution of interstate drug distribution operations in which drugs are transported across state lines into West Virginia for purely economic gain. The U.S. Attorney’s Office is also developing a national curriculum to improve the investigation and prosecution of fatal drug overdoses.

Anyone interested in additional information on the effort to combat drug abuse is encouraged to contact the United States Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of West Virginia at (304) 234-0100. Continuing updates will also be available through the U.S. Attorney’s official Twitter page @NDWVnews.

Updated January 8, 2016