U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions speaks at a news conference at the U.S. Justice Department in Washington D.C., United States, on Nov. 29, 2017. Jeff Sessions on Wednesday announced a series of new measures aimed to combat the nationwide deepening opioid crisis. (Xinhua/Ting Shen)
WASHINGTON, Nov. 29 (Xinhua) -- U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Wednesday announced a series of new measures aimed to combat the nationwide deepening opioid crisis.
Under the new initiatives, the U.S. Justice Department will issue 12 million dollars in grant funding to help state and local law enforcement tackle heroin and methamphetamine issues, including setting up a Drug Enforcement Administration field office in the Appalachian region.
The department will also require all federal prosecutors' offices to designate an Opioid Coordinator so as to customize the federal anti-opioid strategy, and reorganize the field divisions of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) for the first time in nearly 20 years.
The steps "will make our law enforcement efforts smarter and more effective-and ultimately they will save American lives." Sessions said in an prepared statement.
He also said that White House adviser Kellyanne Conway will be leading the charge in combatting the epidemic from the White House, representing the administration's ongoing efforts.
The economic cost of the opioid crisis plaguing the United States stood at about 504 billion U.S dollars in 2015, making for 2.8 percent of the gross domestic product that year, according to a report released by the White House Council of Economic Advisers earlier this month.
In October, U.S. President Donald Trump declared opioid abuse a national public health emergency but he did not direct any new funding to address what he said "the worst drug crisis in American history."
Opioid-related deaths increased 55 percent to 64,000 deaths in the country in 2016.