JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – More than 83,000 people died from drug-related overdoses in the 12-month period ending in July of 2020, an increase from 2019 when more than 70,000 people died from overdoses, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The Drug Enforcement Administration has now launched Operation Engage. Under this new operation, the DEA will partner with community leaders and outreach programs to get people who are addicted to opioids help.
DEA’s Miami Field Division Assistant Special Agent in Charge Jonathon White says Operation Engage will focus on preventing opioid overdoses.
“Those that have a problem or dependency issue with opioids have really been hit hard,” White said.
Especially during the coronavirus pandemic when agents say many people have turned to drugs to deal with anxiety and stress.
DEA’s Miami Field Division Special Agent in Charge Keith Weis, who’s in charge of all DEA operations in Florida, says COVID-19 restrictions made it harder for people who are addicted to opioids to get treatment.
“It’s kind of a perfect storm right now,” Weis said. “So, Operation Engage, the timing couldn’t be more critical.”
DEA Special Agent Amy Roderick is currently coordinating Operation Engage. She says this will be an all hands-on deck approach to tackling opioid addiction in Florida.
“Not only are we going to be reaching out to people that currently have an issue with addiction, we’re going to be reaching out to community members, parents and teachers,” Roderick said.
Roderick says they will also host training events with outreach programs to teach people about the dangers of opioid addiction. This effort will also include people who were previously addicted to drugs speaking with people who need help kicking their addiction.
“It’s very important for us to bring those experts with us when we go to engage with the community because we’re going to be talking with people who need help and they need help now,” White said.
“It’s often said it takes a village to solve problems, and Operation Engage is our attempt to reach out to our communities and really address this issue head-on,” Weis said.
Operation Engage started in South Florida and will eventually make its way to the northeastern part of the state.
Also, if you have unused opioids in your home and need to get rid of them, mark April 24 on your calendar. That’s the DEA National Takeback Day. To learn more about the event, visit www.deatakeback.com or dmv.dea.gov or call 800-882-9539 for a location site near you.
And just days after the DEA rolled out Operation Engage, DEA Acting Administrator D. Christopher Evans on Tuesday announced the release of the 2020 National Drug Threat Assessment.
According to the assessment:
- Mexican Transnational Criminal Organizations remain the greatest criminal drug threat to the U.S.
- Illicit fentanyl is one of the primary drugs fueling the epidemic of overdose deaths in the U.S., the opioid threat remains at epidemic levels.
- The opioid threat remains at epidemic levels, affecting large portions of the country.
- The stimulant threat, including methamphetamine and cocaine, is worsening both in volume and reach.