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Nearly A Third Of Recent Opioid Distribution Arrests Made In Kentucky

A report released Thursday found more than 42,200 people died of opioid overdoses in 2016.
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A report released Thursday found more than 42,200 people died of opioid overdoses in 2016.

Nearly one in three recent arrests by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration related to excessive opioid distribution by prescribers and pharmacies took place in Kentucky. The actions were part of a recent 45-day "surge" announced here by Attorney General Jeff Sessions in late January.

Diversion investigators, special agents, intelligence research specialists and task force officers focused efforts on sources that "dispensed disproportionately large amounts of drugs," according to a Department of Justice news release. The surge spanned February and March.

In Kentucky, agents executed approximately 10 arrests, two search warrants, two voluntary surrenders of DEA registrations for cause and, after regulatory inspection, sent 20 letters of admonition, said Robert J. Scott, the resident agent in charge of the DEA Louisville Field Division, in an email.

"In addition, DEA has generated investigative leads as a result of the surge that we will continue to pursue," he wrote. "It is anticipated that these new leads will result in additional enforcement and regulatory action in the coming months."

He declined to share more details.

The DEA analyzed more than 80 million transaction reports across the country during the surge, according to the release. That resulted in 188 active investigations and, subsequently, 28 arrests and 54 enforcement actions, such as search warrants. The DEA also undertook an additional 283 administrative actions, including scheduled inspections and immediate revocation of registrations.

During his visit to Louisville in January, in a speech to law enforcement officials, attorneys and news media, Sessions said drug addiction leads to violence. Doctors and pharmacists who illegally distribute opioids contribute to that problem, he said.

“The fundamental thing is serious criminals have to be dealt with seriously, that’s going to be our goal and we’re going to be working with state and local departments to identify the most dangerous people,” Sessions said in the speech.

Amina Elahi is LPM's City Editor. Email Amina at aelahi@lpm.org.