WASHINGTON — Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced new funding to combat the opioid epidemic at the Department of Justice's first ever National Opioid Summit.
- DOJ will give out $60 million is grants to fight opioid epidemic
- Leaders, impacted families shared experiences at National Opioid Summit
- Summit comes 1 day after Trump signed sweeping legislation
The DOJ is rolling out $60 million in new grants to fight the epidemic as well as establishing a new pill-mill task force in the Appalachian region, home to the highest overdose rates in the U.S.
The summit included several panels where law enforcement, community leaders and impacted families shared their experiences and looked for solutions.
“It’s a scene that you can’t imagine that you’re in," said Walt Raines, who lost his son Zac more than three years ago after he overdosed on fentanyl.
“Zac was our only child, so how did that happen?" he said.
The summit comes one day after the president signed sweeping legislation that promotes research to find new drugs for pain management, expands access to treatment for substance use disorders for Medicaid patients, and also makes it easier for the post office to intercept illegal drug shipments from overseas.
"I can assure you that a reckoning is coming for those who have defrauded the government in the course of profiting from opioids," said Jesse Panuccio, Acting Associate Attorney General and former Executive Director of the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity.
Earlier this year, Sessions announced the formation of a new team at the FBI that targets online opioid trafficking, and he said local communities are already seeing results.
“This was tried in Manatee, Florida, we met with the sheriff and the assistant United States Attorney this past January," Sessions said. "They had half the number of overdose deaths as the previous January."
The total number of overdose deaths in the U.S. fell slightly between September 2017 and February 2018.
“The Department will bring to this fight, all of its tools and resources," said Panuccio.
However, families impacted by the crisis said the work is far from over.
"We are broken, but we are not defeated," said Kevin Meara, who lost his son to the epidemic.