Montgomery County is among 10 counties nationwide being targeted for a stepped up effort to prosecute those dealing the deadly opioid fentanyl and its cousins.
Federal and state officials announced Operation Synthetic Opioid Surge (S.O.S.), Thursday, a new program that seeks to reduce the supply of deadly synthetic opioids in areas hardest hit by the opioid crisis and to identify suppliers.
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As part of the effort, prosecutors will launch an enforcement surge in 10 districts with some of the highest drug overdose death rates, including Montgomery County.
The idea is to prosecute every readily provable case involving the distribution of fentanyl, fentanyl analogues, and other synthetic opioids, regardless of how small the drug quantity might be.
Operation S.O.S. was inspired by a similar program piloted in Manatee County, Florida.
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"When it comes to synthetic opioids, there is no such thing as a small case," Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in announcing the effort. "In 2016, synthetic opioids killed more Americans than any other kind of drug. Three milligrams of fentanyl can be fatal--that's not even enough to cover up Lincoln's face on a penny.”
Florida prosecutors have shown that prosecuting seemingly small synthetic opioids cases can have a big impact and save lives, Sessions said.
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“We recommended including Montgomery County in this nationwide effort because of the way the community has stepped up enforcement, treatment and prevention efforts to battle the opioid epidemic since overdose deaths began their rapid climb in 2015,” said Benjamin Glassman, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio. “This focus will boost our efforts to dismantle the organizations that bring synthetic opioids into the area, track down the organization’s leaders and prosecute them for their crimes.”
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So far in 2018, 128 people have died from accidental drug overdoses in Montgomery County. Monthly deaths are down significantly from last year when the county saw 566 overdose deaths.
Each participating district in the operation will be sent an additional two-year term Assistant United States Attorney to assist with drug-related prosecutions.
The 10 participating districts are:
Northern District of Ohio
Southern District of Ohio
Eastern District of Tennessee
Eastern District of Kentucky
Southern District of West Virginia
Northern District of West Virginia
District of Maine
Eastern District of California
Western District of Pennsylvania
District of New Hampshire
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