MIAMI -- U.S. government leaders and experts in the areas of public-health, interdiction, law enforcement, and justice will meet at the headquarters of U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) in Miami Feb. 8 to discuss the nation’s opioid epidemic.
During the day-long Opioid Summit, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions will join other senior U.S. officials to examine the crisis, consider approaches to strengthen the nation’s collective response and define holistic strategies supporting the president’s call to action in order to end what he has declared a “national public health emergency.”
“We seek to explore ways in which the government can better collaborate to tackle this problem,” said U.S. Navy Adm. Kurt Tidd, SOUTHCOM’s commander. “This epidemic reaches far beyond organizational boundaries, and the goal of the summit is to unite the community in a way that will allow for a synchronized effort as we move forward.”
The U.S. Department of Justice, Department of Homeland Security, Health and Human Services, Department of State, Department of Defense, and Department of Treasury are among the cabinet-level federal agencies whose leaders and representatives from subordinate agencies, bureaus, offices, commands, and task forces will attend the summit.
The 2018 National Drug Control Budget, which funds federal agencies tasked with reducing the demand and supply of illicit and illegally-consumed drugs in the United States, has set a priority to reverse the “sharp increase in heroin-involved deaths and an emerging increase in deaths involving synthetic opioids, such as fentanyl.”
According to a recently released report by the President’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis, fatal drug overdoses are the leading cause of unintentional death in the United States, with more than 175 lives lost every day.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported more than 40,000 of all overdose deaths in the United States in 2016 involved the use of opioids. The CDC listed West Virginia and Ohio among the states recording alarmingly high rates of overdose deaths that year, while Florida and California experienced the highest totals.
Last March, William Brownfield, then U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL), estimated that between “90 and 94 percent of all heroin consumed in the United States comes from Mexico,” while remaining percentages originate from Colombia and Asia. He called the disturbing rise in overdose deaths across the country “the worst heroin and opioids crisis that we have seen in the United States in more than 60 years.”
“Drug dealers across America are profiting off of this crisis,” Sessions told law enforcement officers in September. “They are making the drugs stronger and more deadly by lacing heroin with fentanyl, a drug 30 to 50 times more powerful than heroin, and carfentanyl, a synthetic opioid 100 times more potent than that.”
Commenting on the crisis Jan. 17, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State James Walsh, who currently leads INL, said criminal organizations trafficking those lethal narcotics use chemists, the Dark Web, and cryptocurrencies, making their illicit trade and trafficking operations more challenging to disrupt than in decades prior.
“Our drug policies have adapted over the years to aggressively focus on the demand as well as the supply … we need strong multilateral cooperation if we are to protect our citizens from borderless threats,” he said.
LINKS TO ADDITIONAL INFORMATION:
PRESIDENT’S NATIONAL PUBLIC HEALTH EMERGENCY DECLARATION
PRESIDENT’S COMMISSION ON COMBATING DRUG ADDICTION AND THE OPIOID CRISIS
REPORT BY THE PRESIDENT’S COMMISSION ON COMBATING DRUG ADDICTION AND THE OPIOID CRISIS
CDC: OPIOID DEATHS
HHS INFOGRAPHIC: OPIOID INFOGRAPHIC BY THE NUMBERS
FISCAL YEAR 2018 NATIONAL DRUG CONTROL BUDGET HIGHLIGHTS
ATTORNEY GENERAL JEFF SESSIONS REMARKS TO LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICERS IN HARRISBURG, PENNSYLVANIA
JAMES WALSH, DEPUTY ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF STATE, BUREAU OF INTERNATIONAL NARCOTICS AND LAW ENFORCEMENT AFFAIRS, THE ROAD AHEAD: THE STATE DEPARTMENT CONFRONTS THE OPIOID CRISIS
ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF STATE FOR INTERNATIONAL NARCOTICS AND LAW ENFORCEMENT BRIEFING ON THE INTERNATIONAL NARCOTICS CONTROL STRATEGY REPORT
BIOGRAPHY, ATTORNEY GENERAL JEFF SESSIONS