Community Health

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced Wednesday enhanced federal enforcement targeting opioids, including a new Drug Enforcement Administration field division in Louisville.

Sessions said the Louisville Field Division is the first new DEA division established in 20 years. He said it will have about 90 special agents and 130 task force officers focusing on drug trafficking in the Appalachian region.

“This field division will cover key areas: West Virginia, Kentucky, and Tennessee,” said Sessions. “These areas covered face similar drug threats, enabling this division to better focus on the particular threats of that region.”

In addition, DEA Administrator Robert Patterson said the administration recently deployed a mobile squad to West Virginia to prevent diversion of prescription painkillers. And the DEA added teams targeting heroin enforcement in West Virginia and Ohio.

Kentucky, Ohio and West Virginia collectively have a rate of opioid-related deaths that is more than twice the national average. Last year 5,306 people died from opioid overdoses in the three states.

Jeff Young is managing editor of the Ohio River Network, a journalism collaboration led by Louisville Public Media.