Operation Engage is rolled out to combat evolving, deadly opioid and meth threats.
The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) recently announced a new strategy to reduce drug use and overdoses called Operation Engage. The program was rolled out after a local police department warned the public about a deadly fentanyl mixture hitting the streets. Because, according to the federal agency, drug threats keep evolving, Operation Engage does not require funding to be tied to a certain drug (i.e., opioids only) and will allow local DEA field divisions to hone-in on the drugs most threatening to the areas in which they operate.
Operation Engage is a “comprehensive law enforcement and prevention support initiative aimed at reducing drug use, abuse, and overdose deaths,” according to the agency. “The initiative builds on and replaces DEA’s 360 Strategy, which aimed its resources specifically at opioids, and allows field divisions to customize plans and direct resources to target the drug that presents the greatest threat to public health and safety in their jurisdictions. The following 11 field divisions submitted proposals that were approved for the initial round of funding: Detroit, El Paso, Los Angeles, Miami, New England, New Orleans, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Washington, Seattle, and St. Louis.”
In the area that initially sparked the initiative – New Hampshire – the threat is both fentanyl and methamphetamine, according to officials. “Now they’re taking pills like Adderall and they are using nothing but crystal methamphetamine to look like an Adderall,” DEA Assistant Special Agent in Charge Jon DeLena said. “If cartels are making a business decision to make Adderall pills out of crystal methamphetamine, they’re targeting the children of our communities.”
“If someone is playing around and they’re trying fentanyl, or they have been using fentanyl and they think they’re getting a certain product from a certain dealer, this potentially might be this deadly product that is now out on the street,” said Capt. Anne Perriello of the Pelham Police Department.
According to the Office of New Hampshire’s Chief Medical Examiner, “409 people died of drug overdoses in 2020, 52 involved methamphetamines, the same as in 2019 and an increase from 22 methamphetamine-involved deaths in 2018,” and agents at the Pelham Police Department said they have noticed an increase in methamphetamines, warning the public of the mixture after a Massachusetts drug crimes suspect was indicted on federal charges. Recent statistics released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also show synthetic opioids are driving overdose fatalities with most of these involving fentanyl and fentanyl analogs.
“There has also been an increase in availability of methamphetamine, which is linked to violent crime,” the DEA reported. “The Operation Engage initiative encourages partnerships with healthcare professionals, as well as engagement with community and social service organizations best positioned to provide long-term assistance and support for building drug-free communities.”
“Working alongside our federal, state, and local law enforcement partners, as well as specialists in prevention, treatment, and education, we are raising awareness to make our communities safer,” said DEA Acting Administrator D. Christopher Evans of Operation Engage. “We will help empower individuals, families, and communities to do their part to help reduce the demand for drugs and get help for those who need it.”