Acting U.S. Attorney General Matthew Whitaker traveled to Nashville Thursday to speak about the ongoing efforts to combat the opioid crisis, saying the city will serve as the southern hub for the Appalachian regional prescription strike force.
In 2017, some 70,000 people died from overdoses – the highest drug-related death toll in American history. According to Whitaker, more people died this last year from drug overdoses than in car crashes.
He called the opioid crisis the "deadliest drug crisis in American history."
For the third year in a row, life expectancy has declined in the U.S., largely in part to the drug epidemic. For perspective, Whitaker says the last time life expectancy declined three straight years was a century ago during the height of World War I and the flu pandemic.
He acknowledged that Appalachia has been especially hit hard by the crisis.
President Trump has set a goal to reduce the national opioid prescription rate by one-third in three years.
“It’s an ambitious goal,” Whitaker said. “But we are well on our way to achieving it.”
He added that we now have the lowest opioid prescription rate in 18 years.
Last month, authorities announced a new Appalachian regional prescription strike force with 12 additional prosecutors across nine districts. Each prosecutor will have team of federal investigators and law enforcement officials.
The northern hub will be based near Cincinnati, while the southern location will be headquartered in Nashville.
Whitaker took over as acting attorney general after Jeff Sessions resigned earlier this month at President Donald Trump's request. He was in Memphis on Wednesday to introduce an initiative to combat gun crimes in the city.