Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced Wednesday his new initiative to combat the country’s current opioid epidemic: a pilot program focused on cracking down on doctors and pharmacists who have contributed to the problem.
In a speech he made at the Columbus Police Academy in Ohio, Sessions called the epidemic “the worst drug crisis” in history, and vowed to use “every tool we have” to reverse the trend.
“In recent years some of the government officials in our country I think have mistakenly sent mixed messages about the harmfulness of drugs,” he said at one point during his speech, possibly referencing policies from the Obama Administration which allowed the medical and recreational marijuana industries to grow while in office. “So let me say: We cannot capitulate intellectually or morally unto this kind of rampant drug abuse. We must create a culture that’s hostile to drug abuse.”
As part of his pilot program, Sessions is instating a new federal data analysis program that will track prescriptions and pharmacies to identify any pharmacies that may be dispensing a disproportionate number of pills.
Sessions will also be dispatching 12 federal prosecutors to cities where the epidemic is most devastating. (Ohio is considered one of the hardest hit, with eight people dying a day of accidental overdoses.)
“If you are a doctor illegally prescribing opioids for profit or a pharmacist letting these pills walk out the door… we are coming after you,” Sessions declared.
The Opioid Fraud and Abuse Detection Unit, as Sessions referred to the 12 attorneys, will also be stationed in Florida, Michigan, Alabama, Tennessee, Nevada, Kentucky, Maryland, Pennsylvania, California, North Carolina and West Virginia. The prosecutors will work in conjunction with the FBI, Drug Enforcement administration and Health and Human Services to identify and arrest the violators.
“These prosecutors will help us target and prosecute these doctors, pharmacies and medical providers who are furthering this epidemic to line their pockets,” he said.
More than 52,000 Americans died of opioid overdoses in 2015, and Sessions estimated numbers from last year to have reached 60,000.