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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — A big first for Pittsburgh and western Pennsylvania, as the White House is placing a special program here to help fight the opioid epidemic.
Allegheny, Washington and Beaver counties were just given a special designation, which will mean big federal money will be spent on taking down local drug traffickers.
“Before today, Pittsburgh was the largest city in the United States without any affiliation with a designated HIDTA,” said Scott Brady, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania.
HIDTA is the acronym for High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area. Established by the Office of National Drug Control Policy, it injects federal resources into local drug control efforts.
“Today, the White House has announced, and we are pleased to announce, that we will receive $1 million a year to fight opioid and fentanyl trafficking with our federal, state and law enforcement partners,” Brady said.
Now, with the HIDTA designation, Allegheny, Washington and Beaver counties will be able to use that money to aid in the fight.
In 2017, there were 5,400 overdose deaths in Pennsylvania. That’s one person dying every 96 minutes.
“Fentanyl, as we know, is the prime culprit. Fentanyl was present in 67 percent of overdose deaths in Pennsylvania in 2017,” Brady said.
“We’ve had very good success in bringing down the numbers of deaths in Allegheny County, but any death is one too many,” said Rebecca Spangler, First Assistant to Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen Zappala.
HIDTA will allow for increased intelligence, training and law enforcement initiatives to go after dealers, not addicts.
“What I envision doing here in conjunction with our partners is looking at data. I think it’s important to really have the intelligence from the field to attack where the problems are occurring and who’s causing the problems,” said Gene Vittone, Washington County District Attorney.
“We have worked diligently with all these agencies and we look forward to the HIDTA now providing resources that will greatly magnify our ability,” said David Lozier, Beaver County District Attorney.
Another big bonus is timing. Because the White House is implementing the program before Sept. 30, western Pennsylvania will receive $2 million during this fiscal year.