In Harrisburg, AG Sessions announces $20M grant to fight opioid epidemic

Written by Staff Report | Sep 22, 2017 6:36 PM

(AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

(Harrisburg) -- Attorney General Jeff Sessions was in Harrisburg Friday to announce a nearly $20 million federal grant to help law enforcement and public health agencies address prescription drug and opioid abuse.

"This is an urgent problem and we are making it a top priority," Session said. "I believe that these new resources and new efforts will make a difference, bring more criminals to justice, and ultimately save lives."

Session told members of the law enforcement community President Trump recently declared this week both "Prescription Opioid and Heroin Epidemic Awareness Week" and "National Gang Violence Prevention Week," in order to bring greater attention and scrutiny to the devastating effects that drug abuse and gang violence have on Americans and their families.

In 2015, more than 52,000 Americans lost their lives to drug overdoses. Sessions noted that's more than the population of Harrisburg.

He added Pennsylvania was sixth in the nation in fatal overdoses in 2015.

Last year, 4,600 Pennsylvanians lost their lives to drug overdoses-- a 37 percent increase over the year before.

"I believe the solution today is still based on the three principles of prevention, enforcement, and treatment," Session said.

In addition to announcing the new grant, Sessions outlined steps the Department of Justice has taken to fight the epidemic, including creating a data analytics program to find signs of opioid-related health care fraud and assigning 12 prosecutors to focus solely on those fraud cases in a dozen "hot-spot" locations around the country. One of those will be in western Pennsylvania.

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