Health

Louisville has been chosen for a federal pilot program aimed at attacking the city’s heroin and prescription opioid problem.

The program, led by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, is called the “360 Strategy.” It takes a multi-faceted approach to the problem and will involve law enforcement, medical and public health organizations and service groups.

It will include the formation of a Heroin Investigation Team, made up of Louisville Metro Police detectives and DEA agents.

U.S. Attorney John Kuhn said the team will investigate overdoses as crime scenes. Dealers whose drugs cause overdoses will be prosecuted in federal court and could go to prison for 20 years to life without parole, he said.

“Today, we have a message for heroin dealers,” Kuhn said. “You are killing people in this city, and we cannot allow this to continue.”

The program, which has been implemented in several other cities, including St. Louis and Pittsburgh, will also have a public awareness campaign, and will engage the medical community and service organizations.

The Louisville area has seen spike in heroin overdose deaths recently, and last year, Jefferson County led the state with nearly 270 fatal drug overdoses.

“We have to deal with this not only from a law enforcement standpoint, where we’re doing something about the supply of heroin, we need to help those who are currently addicted, we need better and more treatment, and then we need to do more work in preventing new addictions,” Kuhn said.

As part of the program, the University of Louisville School of Medicine will host a summit on the drug epidemic on Dec. 1.

Rick Howlett is WFPL's Broadcast Managing Editor and also produces feature and general assignment radio stories.