Cynthia Persily, PhD, RN, FAAN
Dr. Persily is the CEO of Highland Hospital in Charleston, WV
This week, Highland was proud to participate in a meeting held by the US Drug Enforcement Agency to kick off their new DEA 360 strategy to fight the drug epidemic in our community, our state, and our country. The meeting was sponsored by the University Of Charleston School Of Pharmacy, and was attended by 100-150 government officials, legislators, first responders, law enforcement, drug prevention groups, physicians, pharmacists, our US attorney and many others from Kanawha, Putnam and Cabell counties. Speakers included DEA agents from the Charleston and Washington, DC offices, and the DEA Special Operations Division, Office of Diversion Control and Community Outreach.
Highland was represented by Dan Walker, our Director of Pharmacy Services. Dan reports that the DEA 360 Strategy is a comprehensive approach to tackle the cycle of violence and addiction generated by the link between drug cartels, violent gangs and the rising problem of prescription opioid and heroin abuse in US cities. The strategy has three main parts: coordinated law enforcement operations, diversion control and community outreach and education.
Dan reports that the law enforcement portion of the program detailed the connections between our state and the drug trafficking organizations supplying drugs to our neighborhoods and communities. The speaker also discussed tactics employed by law enforcement to efficiently target and disrupt the supply chains of those organizations. The importance of this part of the overall program was made clear, but the speaker was careful to warn the audience that “We can’t just arrest our way out of this problem.”
We are especially interested in the diversion control portion of the program, which emphasized the role of health care providers and drug wholesalers in preventing opioid and heroin abuse. The link between opiate addiction and heroin addiction is clear, with data showing that 80% of people addicted to prescription opioids will also become addicted to heroin. The DEA is changing its view of the issuance of DEA registration numbers required for prescribing opiates. If this privilege is misused by physicians, pharmacists or suppliers, then permission to prescribe these medications can be suspended or revoked.
Dan also reports that speakers talked about strategies to reach the community about abuse at four main locations: home, schools, after school and in the workplace. Most kids are introduced to drugs between the hours of 3pm and 7pm, so school and after school programs and resources are of paramount importance. Education that leads to prevention is key to keeping communities’ drug free.
We were interested to learn that Charleston is the sixth city in the nation to be part of this pilot program. Other cities include Milwaukee, Louisville, St. Louis, Pittsburgh and Dayton. There will be a total of 8 by the end of the year. (Albuquerque and Manchester, NH kick off this year). National partners in the program include the Elks, Boys & Girls Clubs of America, Partnership for Drug-Free Kids, US Attorney’s office, the Young Marines and many more. Associations that have partnered with the program include American Medical Association, HHS, FDA, National Association of Boards of Pharmacy, National Association of Chain Drug Stores, the Office of National Drug Control Policy and others.
DEA 360 is another program aimed at preventing drug abuse that Highland is proud to be a part of to improve the health of our community. Comprehensive strategies such as these are worth our investment.