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Western Pa.’s U.S. Attorney to head national heroin task force |

Western Pa.’s U.S. Attorney to head national heroin task force

| Friday, April 17, 2015 5:24 p.m

Western Pennsylvania’s top federal prosecutor has been tapped by the Department of Justice to help oversee a national Heroin Task Force.

U.S. Attorney David Hickton will co-chair the newly formed group with Mary Lou Leary, deputy director for State, Local and Tribal Affairs at the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy.

“We are in the middle of a heroin epidemic, a public health crisis,” Hickton said Friday, noting the cooperation between federal and local agencies in the Pittsburgh region. “We have taken the lead by trying to develop a full-spectrum answer to the problem.”

As part of his focus on issues surrounding heroin, Hickton established the U.S. Attorney’s Working Group on Drug Overdose and Addiction: Prevention, Intervention, Treatment and Recovery. It is important to address the addiction side of the problem as well as the criminal side, “a two-front war,” Hickton said.

He said it is as important to dispel the stigma of addiction and to help addicts recover as it is to aggressively destroy drug trafficking operations.

“This problem is a very comprehensive and very complicated law enforcement and public health challenge,” Hickton said. “We cannot prosecute or incarcerate our way out of this problem. But we are giving no quarter in our prosecution.”

The task force, established by federal Attorney General Eric Holder, will meet April 28 in Washington. Federal agency experts from law enforcement, medicine, public health and educational fields will attend to explore a coordinated response to the national heroin problem.

The task force and its committees will formulate a strategic plan to be submitted by year’s end to Congress and President Obama.

Jason Cato is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.

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