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Federal Heroin Response Strategy aims for real-time coordination

August 18, 2015
by Julie Miller, Editor in Chief
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Five heroin hotspots in the United States will receive $2.5 million in program funding under the Office of National Drug Control Policy’s (ONDCP) new Heroin Response Strategy, announced on August 17. Funds will be used to hire a public safety coordinator and public health coordinator in each region to manage response teams.

The five regions (Appalachia, New England, Philadelphia/Camden, New York/New Jersey, and Washington/Baltimore) represent 15 states and are part of the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTA) program, which was created by Congress in 1988. There are currently 28 HIDTAs in all, but related funding cannot be used for direct treatment programs.

Rather, in the new Heroin Response Strategy, the five designated HIDTAs will coordinate health and public safety efforts in real time, share information and drive best practices.

The public health coordinators will manage tasks such as overdose reporting and preparing alerts for emerging safety issues, such as particularly deadly batches heroin in communities. Health officials will also distribute naloxone. Each region’s public safety coordinator will ensure communication to relevant law enforcement authorities and provide case support.

To assist communities, the five HIDTAs will also develop education and training to increase awareness of heroin and opiate addiction, create linkages to available prevention and treatment resources in the respective regions, and teach first-responders how to report all pertinent lead information.

A total of $13.4 million in funding was earmarked for HIDTA efforts nationwide. According to USA Today, ONDCP has designed the new Heroin Response Strategy but the strategy is not the result of any new federal funding.

Law enforcement agencies in HIDTA regions along the U.S.–Mexico border will see $1.3 million to enhance investigative efforts against large criminal organizations, reduce the flow of drugs across the border and prevent drug use in border communities.

Another $500,000 will be directed toward addressing drug threats on tribal lands.