Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Heroin 'Epidemic' Focus of Summit

Posted By on Tue, Dec 13, 2016 at 3:19 PM

click to enlarge U.S. Attorney Ed Stanton speaks to the media during Tuesday's heroin response summit. - TOBY SELLS
  • Toby Sells
  • U.S. Attorney Ed Stanton speaks to the media during Tuesday's heroin response summit.

Heroin overdose deaths in Shelby County are already higher this year than they were for all of 2015 and a Tuesday summit here hoped to stem the tide for what one official called an “epidemic.”

Nearly 300 officials from law enforcement, health care, and emergency services gathered at Big Cypress Lodge inside Bass Pro Shops in the Pyramid Tuesday to share information on the best ways to address the growing heroin problem in the area.

Ed Stanton, United States Attorney for the Western District of Tennessee, said “we’re averaging one [heroin] overdose death per week” and that this year there have been over 200 non-lethal overdoses here. It was all enough for Stanton to call the problem an “epidemic.”

“It’s a huge issue we’re grappling with and any one death is one too many,” Stanton said Tuesday. “The goal is to stem that tide and to do everything we can to combat this addiction [problem] and to raise awareness of it in the community.”

Stanton said the problem cuts across socio-economic and geographic lines, “it’s not just something that happens in the inner-cities,” he said.

The heroin problem is so great in Memphis, Stanton said, a special prosecutor will be assigned to his office at the beginning of the year to focus solely on heroin-related cases. The attorney will come from Shelby County District Attorney General Amy Weirich’s office but will be paid for through a grant from the Gulf Coast High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area program.

“It’s a sign of the times that we’re in that all this person will be doing is handling heroin cases,” Stanton said.


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