Delaware to receive federal funding to create heroin task force

 (<a href=Photo via ShutterStock) " title="drugs16x9" width="640" height="360"/>

(Photo via ShutterStock)

Delaware will receive $2.5 million in federal funding to help tackle the state’s heroin and prescription drug abuse epidemic. 

The funding, announced Monday by Gov. Jack Markell, D-Delaware, and White House officials, will support a new initiative partnering law enforcement and public health officials who will work in unison to address the state’s increasing drug problem.  

“While we need to do more to stop the flow of drugs into our cities, suburbs and rural areas, we know we cannot arrest our way out of this health crisis,” Markell said.

“In order to truly reduce the number of people and families impacted by addiction, we must convince active users that treatment is available, it does work and they can recover and thrive,” he said.

The funding comes from the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTA) program, to which New Castle County was assigned last year by the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy. 

“The addition of New Castle County to the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas program strengthens existing efforts in Delaware,” added U.S. Congressman John Carney, D-Delaware. “This investment will help provide much-needed resources for us to better address heroin and prescription drug abuse.

The funding allocated to Delaware is part of $13.4 million that will fund HIDTA programs across the country.

The program, created in 1988, helps federal, state and local authorities coordinate drug enforcement operations, support prevention efforts and improve public health and safety. 

Delaware will use the funding to launch the Heroin Response Strategy, a partnership between five regional HIDTA programs to address heroin and opiate addiction through public health-public safety partnerships across 15 states. The program uses a multidisciplinary approach to prevention and recovery.

The announcement of the new funding follows the allocation of $4.45 million  to expand rehabilitation facilities in the state, and comes after the State announced a four-part plan to tackle addiction.  

“The new Heroin Response Strategy demonstrates a strong commitment to address the heroin and prescription opioid epidemic as both a public health and a public safety issue,” said Michael Botticelli, Director of National Drug Control Policy.

“This Administration will continue to expand community-based efforts to prevent drug use, pursue ‘smart on crime’ approaches to drug enforcement, increase access to treatment, work to reduce overdose deaths and support the millions of Americans in recovery.”

The five HIDTAs will select a public health coordinator and a public safety coordinator to manage and oversee the implementation and operation of the Heroin Response Teams.

The public health coordinator will oversee regional overdose reports and issue alerts regarding dangerous batches of heroin and other heroin-related threats to health authorities, with the goal of expanding resources in areas most affected by drug overdose.

The public safety coordinator will ensure case support is provided where needed and that intelligence is disseminated to relevant law enforcement authorities in order to prevent the supply of heroin.

A heroin and prescription opioid training curriculum also will be developed to prepare rural and municipal officers and first responders who have less experience responding to heroin and prescription opioid-related incidents.

Education and training strategies to increase awareness also will be created, as well as resources for individuals struggling with drug addiction.

 “It will take an all-hands-on-deck effort to seek out the root causes and fix them,” said U.S. Sen. Tom Carper, D-Delaware.  “It is through partnerships with law enforcement, the community, and other cities across the country that real change can happen and this program will help to make that change a reality.”

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal