I traveled to Washington D.C. yesterday to meet with Congressman Tim Murphy. I asked him to consider applying for a Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) office to be located in Westmoreland County and to also apply for a HIGH INTENSITY DRUG TRAFFIC AREA (HIDTA) program area designation from the Justice Department for the County. Additionally, I asked Congressman Murphy’s office to help establish and facilitate collaboration among the U.S. Attorney’s office and his regional programs with that of the Westmoreland County government officials.
Last year in Westmoreland County we had 171 overdose deaths related to the opioid epidemic. Fifteen years ago we only had 22 overdose deaths. The opioid overdose death rate is growing on average at 48% per year and along with that comes continued growth in violent crimes in the county.
A HIDITA designation would bring federal funding to our area which I believe could facilitate the necessary collaboration between federal, state and county resources to effectively combat this tragic drug epidemic.
Congressman Murphy shared the statistical information we provided on the drug epidemic in Westmoreland County with the President later in the day. The President is strongly committed to addressing the drug epidemic crises as he too has been impacted by a family member who died from an overdose. Congressman Murphy has been working hard and advocating for maintaining Medicaid coverage for the mentally ill and addicted. Many of the individuals released from the Westmoreland County prison system are addicted and, not only is there no medical coverage for these individuals, there is no legal process forcing them into any rehabilitation programs.
At Covington a number of our family foundations are actively involved in providing educational and preventive programs for drug addiction. I hope we can change the trajectory of the death rate to make a difference in our community. I am doing all I can to effect this and I thank our clients for doing what they can to solve this drug epidemic.
Please find some additional accidental overdose statistics for Westmoreland County below: