HAMPTON ROADS, Va. – There has been a massive explosion in drug overdoses in Hampton Roads and across the country. The pandemic has made these issues worse, according to experts.
The United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) said they have launched a new comprehensive law enforcement and prevention initiative through the DEA Washington Division, aimed at reducing drug use, abuse, and overdose deaths.
It’s called “Operation Engage” and allows participating field divisions to focus on the biggest drug threat and resulting violence in their respective geographic areas.
They said, “the initiative builds on and replaces past strategies that aimed resources specifically at opioids, and allows the DEA Washington Division to combat the more complex overdose, drug, and related violence issues in the tristate area through area-focused, community-centered, customized plans and direct resources to target the drug threats that present the greatest threat to public health and safety in its jurisdiction.”
“Operation Engage is our new, cutting-edge initiative to combat the horrific drug and overdose epidemic we are seeing across our area,” said Jarod Forget, Special Agent in Charge of the DEA Washington Division. “Through direct collaboration and engagement with our local community members and partners, we can and will better target these local drug threats, provide sustainable, customized education, prevent illicit drug use, and more effectively tackle these issues that are so gravely affecting our area families and neighborhoods.”
They said recent statistics released by the Centers for Disease Control show an alarming rise in drug overdose deaths, with synthetic opioids driving record-high fatalities and the vast majority of these deaths involve illicitly manufactured fentanyl, including fentanyl analogs.
“Overdose deaths involving fentanyl have increased over 100% across D.C., Maryland, and Virginia in the past year. A record number of overdose deaths have been seen across the country and in the DMV, with almost 90% of all of the drug-related overdose deaths recorded as opioid (including fentanyl) -related. The impact of COVID-19 on our area has accelerated this overdose problem significantly.”
They said the DEA works every day to target and take down the drug trafficking organizations flooding American communities with illegal drugs, but confronting this public health crisis requires a comprehensive and targeted strategy to reduce demand in local communities.
They said the Operation Engage initiative encourages partnerships with healthcare professionals, businesses, schools, communities, and social service organizations to provide comprehensive solutions and assist in providing long-term assistance and support for building drug-free communities.