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Strike force formed to combat opioid abuse in Appalachia

Posted: 11:20 AM, Oct 25, 2018
Updated: 2018-10-25 16:20:11Z

U.S. Justice Department officials say a new law enforcement strike force is being formed to combat opioid abuse in Appalachia, including Tennessee and Kentucky.

Assistant Attorney General Brian A. Benczkowski says the Appalachian Regional Prescription Opioid Strike Force will investigate health care fraud schemes and prosecute medical professionals and others involved in the illegal distribution of opioids.

“While the opioid epidemic continues to inflict untold pain and suffering on people across the country, the devastation in the Appalachian region and adjacent areas has been particularly staggering,” said Assistant Attorney General Benczkowski. 

The Justice Department said Thursday that the strike force will bring together law enforcement and federal prosecutors. Participants will include the FBI, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of the Inspector General.

Benczkowski says the suffering caused by opioid abuse has been "particularly staggering" in Appalachia. He says the problem is "more reprehensible when unscrupulous physicians and pharmacies" contribute to the epidemic by illegally supplying prescription painkillers.