Operation S.O.S. reducing opioid related deaths in West Virginia

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MARTINSBURG, W.Va. (WTRF) – The COVID-19 pandemic has halted a lot of aspects of our daily lives, but officials want you to know the fight against opioids is still going strong. 

Since 2018, both the Northern and Southern Districts of West Virginia have been part of the Department of Justice’s Operation S.O.S. (Synthetic Opioid Surge).

The program works to reduce the supply of fentanyl in areas with the highest overdose deaths. 

In the Northern District of West Virginia, Berkeley County was named as a high overdose area.

Our marching orders were very simple. We were going to prosecute every fentanyl case no matter what the quantity, no matter what was involved and put the federal weight behind each and every one of those prosecutions.

U.S. Attorney Bill Powell, Northern District of West Virginia

He also said the initiative is working, with a reduction of opioid deaths across all major metropolitan areas in the district. 

We seized as part of our investigation significant amounts of fentanyl as well as other drugs and guns. Fentanyl in amounts that would kill millions of people if it was put on the street.

U.S. Attorney Bill Powell, Northern District of West Virginia

So far in 2020, investigators seized more than two pounds of fentanyl, just in Berkeley County. That amount could kill 1.3 million people. 

Nearly 100 people have been charged in federal court in the Northern District since Operation S.O.S. began. 

The Northern and Southern Districts of West Virginia were two of ten districts across the country to receive funding from the Department of Justice.

Powell’s office said nationwide as part of Operation S.O.S. counties participating did see a decrease in opioid deaths. Also, 750 people have been charged in federal court.

He also said prosecuting drug offenders isn’t the only aspect of working to curb the opioid crisis. He added counseling, medical care and community activists are doing their part. Powell feels it takes not only law enforcement, but also education and help from the medical community.

We have to teach our folks early on that opioids aren’t the way to go. Not only in schools, but every other place. Doctors have their roll in assuring that their patients don’t get addicted to their opioids. That they get enough to deal with their pain certainly, but be warry of giving too many prescriptions.

U.S. Attorney Bill Powell, Northern District of West Virginia

Powell said the Department of Justice is continuing to support the efforts of Operation S.O.S. going forward.

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