Office of Justice Programs Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Katharine T. Sullivan today joined Ann Urling, Deputy Chief of Staff for Governor Jim Justice, in announcing awards of almost $38 million to fight crime and improve community safety in West Virginia. Nearly $8 million of the total will support families, children and crime victims caught up in the nation’s opioid crisis.
U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of West Virginia Michael B. Stuart, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of West Virginia William J. Powell, Acting Director of OJP’s Bureau of Justice Assistance Tracey Trautman and Director of the West Virginia Division of Justice and Community Services Joseph C. Thornton also participated in the announcement.
“The opioid crisis has destroyed far too many lives and left too many Americans feeling helpless and hopeless, and the people of West Virginia have borne the brunt of it,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Sullivan for the Office of Justice Programs. “This epidemic — the most deadly in our nation’s history — is introducing new dangers and loading public health responsibilities onto the public safety duties of our law enforcement officers. The Department of Justice is here to support them during this unprecedented and extremely challenging time.”
West Virginia is the epicenter of the opioid crisis, with the highest age-adjusted rate of opioid overdose deaths in the country. According to data from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, 833 West Virginians lost their lives to opioids in 2017, a rate of 49.6 deaths per 100,000 persons, more than three times the national average. The sharpest increase in opioid-involved overdose deaths involved synthetic opioids like fentanyl.
“I’ve said over and over that we need to do everything humanly possible — and invest every single dollar we can — into helping the people caught up in the horrible opioid crisis once and for all,” said Governor Justice. “I congratulate and thank the many hard-working people who made it possible for us to receive this funding that is going to allow us to make a difference in the lives of countless West Virginians. But we can’t stop here. We all need to dig deep and work even harder now to ensure that this funding is used effectively and efficiently to help provide relief to as many West Virginians as possible.”
“Record and historic funding. These grant funds are critical to West Virginia to continue our work at combatting the opioid epidemic and to advance and combat a wide range of criminal justice, juvenile justice and victim service activities,” said United States Attorney Stuart for the Southern District of West Virginia. “I am focused every day with a true sense of urgency to ensure the protection and safety of the people of West Virginia. Too many West Virginians have lost their lives to drug overdose and our communities and families have suffered beyond measure. The funding provided through the Comprehensive Opioid Abuse Program will support healing of the most innocent victims of the opioid crisis — our children — and further efforts to get individuals with substance use disorder much needed treatment. This funding from the Department of Justice will no doubt save lives and make West Virginia a safer, better place to live and a destination for companies to grow their operations.”
“I want to thank Attorney General Barr, the Office of Justice Programs and the Department of Justice for their support of West Virginia. U.S. Attorney Mike Stuart and I recognize that despite our record numbers of prosecutions, the opioid crisis in our state requires a plan of attack that includes education, community outreach and healthcare support,” said U.S. Attorney Powell for the Northern District of West Virginia. “These grants will help children exposed to the trauma and violence that the opioid crisis brings, add health services in our rural areas and identify at-risk individuals in an effort to divert them from a path of sorrow, heartbreak and other consequences. When we work together, real progress can be made.”
A $6.5 million grant to the DCJS will support the Handle With Care initiative, a statewide program that serves children exposed to trauma and violence. Funding also expands the West Virginia Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion, or LEAD, program, which steers low-level drug offenders away from prosecution. A third DCJS effort will provide telehealth services, including counseling and medication assisted treatment, to underserved and geographically isolated communities in the state. The remaining $1.5 million in Justice Department grants will support mental health services for at-risk youth in Berkeley County and a research-based peer recovery and data analysis program in the city of Charleston.
West Virginia’s opioid-related grants are part of more than $333 million in Justice Department awards going to states, tribes and communities to combat opioids and other drugs. Most of the funding is made available through the Comprehensive Opioid Abuse Program, which is designed to reduce opioid abuse and drug-related deaths by helping law enforcement agencies and treatment providers coordinate their response. Additional funds are being directed to address a nationwide increase in the abuse of methamphetamines. Overdose deaths from meth and other psychostimulants rose 25 percent annually between 2015 and 2018. Grants from the Department’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services support anti-meth task forces aimed at taking down traffickers that supply cheap and highly pure forms of the drug.
The remainder of the state’s awards cover a wide range of criminal justice, juvenile justice and victim service activities. Grants will support school safety initiatives, law enforcement hiring and equipment purchases, services for domestic violence and sexual assault victims, inmate reentry services, DNA analysis, youth mentoring and efforts to combat online child exploitation and manage sex offenders. Awards were made by the three grant-making components of the Department of Justice — OJP, the COPS Office and the Office on Violence Against Women.
A full list of OJP awards, organized under specific grant programs, is available online at https://ojp.gov/funding/Explore/OJPAwardData.htm. For COPS awards, please visit https://cops.usdoj.gov/grants. OVW awards can be found at https://www.justice.gov/ovw/awards.
About the Office of Justice Programs:
The Office of Justice Programs, directed by Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Katharine T. Sullivan, provides federal leadership, grants, training, technical assistance and other resources to improve the nation’s capacity to prevent and reduce crime, assist victims and enhance the rule of law by strengthening the criminal and juvenile justice systems. More information about OJP and its components can be found at www.ojp.gov.
About the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services:
The COPS Office is a federal agency responsible for advancing community policing nationwide. Since 1994, the COPS Office has invested more than $14 billion to advance community policing, including grants awarded to more than 13,000 state, local and tribal law enforcement agencies to fund the hiring and redeployment of approximately 130,000 officers and provide a variety of knowledge resource products including publications, training and technical assistance. For additional information about the COPS Office, please visit www.cops.usdoj.gov.
About the Office on Violence Against Women:
The Office on Violence Against Women provides leadership in developing the nation’s capacity to reduce violence through the implementation of the Violence Against Women Act and subsequent legislation. Created in 1995, OVW administers financial and technical assistance to communities across the country that are developing programs, policies and practices aimed at ending domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking. In addition to overseeing federal grant programs, OVW undertakes initiatives in response to special needs identified by communities facing acute challenges. Learn more at www.justice.gov/ovw.
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Author: December 13, 2019