DEA launches pilot program to cut drug overdoses in Pittsburgh

Written by Ben Allen and Radio Pennsylvania | Dec 1, 2015 3:56 AM

(Pittsburgh) -- Federal authorities are focusing their attention on western Pennsylvania, as the state's heroin crisis stretches into its second year.

The federal Drug Enforcement Agency is leading the a pilot program that's expected to serve as a model for the nation. It'll include law enforcement, community outreach, and partnerships with doctors, nurses, and pharmacists.

It's calling the work a "360 strategy".

Part one - more agents and investigators will target heroin traffickers.

The DEA will also team up with community groups to address why people get addicted.

And the third part will involve attempting to cut down on doctors prescribing powerful painkillers.

"All three have to work in tandem, in order to be effective. We recognize that we're never going to arrest our way out of this thing, so we have to use what I call those nontraditional partners to help us achieve what we're trying to achieve," says DEA Special Agent in Charge Gary Tuggle.

Tuggle says Pittsburgh's heroin problem is particularly disturbing, with supplies flowing from as far away as Miami.

But he says community organizations are already working to reduce drug overdose deaths, so he's encouraged the DEA initiative can make a difference.

"With the level of community involvement we already have, the level of commitment within the law enforcement community, and then the level of cooperation we're getting with industry, we think it's sort of the perfect proving ground in terms of developing this concept."

Similar programs are also underway in Milwaukee, Saint Louis and West Memphis, Arkansas.

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