The Drug Enforcement Administration announced a new initiative Wednesday to combat drug use and overdoses that have been plaguing the United States for years. Operation Engage targets the stages in the drug-use cycle before the individual even obtains the drugs.
A record high of more than 80,000 people died from overdoses throughout the US in a 12-month period ending in May 2020, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“Working alongside our federal, state, and local law enforcement partners, as well as specialists in prevention, treatment, and education, we are raising awareness to make our communities safer,” said DEA acting Administrator D. Christopher Evans in a press release. “We will help empower individuals, families, and communities to do their part to help reduce the demand for drugs and get help for those who need it.”
Operation Engage will work in tandem with other active operations and replace old strategies, such as the DEA 360 strategy that specifically targeted opioids, to combat drug trafficking and associated violence to reduce overall drug-related crime.
According to the DEA, Operation Engage will “focus evidence-based drug use prevention and community outreach efforts” in an attempt to prevent drug use and any potential overdoses. Also, Operation Engage grants each field division the ability to make customized plans and utilize resources specific to the prominent drug threats unique to their areas.
DEA divisions identified cities in their areas that are hit the hardest with drugs and are determining the most prevalent drugs in that area. Each DEA division will utilize various community engagement strategies by way of people’s workplaces, schools, mainstream media, and social media. The DEA said it will be approaching both adults and youths in order to raise awareness to prevent people from taking steps toward drug use.
The DEA listed the divisions and the primary areas they are targeting:
- New England Division: Manchester, New Hampshire
- Philadelphia Division: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
- Washington, DC, Division: Washington, DC
- Los Angeles Division: Southern California
- New Orleans Division: Baton Rouge, Louisiana
- Miami Division: Broward County, Florida
- Detroit Division: Chippewa County, Michigan
- El Paso Division: Albuquerque, New Mexico
- Phoenix Division: Yavapai County, Arizona
- Seattle Division: Anchorage, Alaska
- St. Louis Division: Wichita, Kansas
The DEA is planning to expand Operation Engage throughout the US by 2022. The DEA did not respond to requests for further information at the time of publication.