Frederick County designated high drug traffic area

Frederick County has been chosen as one of 18 counties in nine states that will receive extra federal money to help counter the use and sale of illegal drugs, the director of national drug control policy announced Thursday.

The director, Michael Botticelli, said the money will be used to help federal, state and local officials coordinate a mix of law enforcement and treatment efforts.

The counties chosen by Botticelli’s agency also include Pulaski and Wythe counties in Virginia and Monongalia County in West Virginia and Washington County in Maryland. They and the other counties were designated as part of the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area program.

Berkeley County in West Virginia, just north of Frederick County, had already been designated as a High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area, along with a part of southwest Virginia and the state’s Washington, D.C., suburbs.

“The High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas program is an important part of this administration’s work to expand community-based efforts to prevent drug use, pursue ‘smart on crime’ approaches to drug enforcement, work to reduce overdose deaths, increase access to treatment and support millions of Americans in recovery,” Botticelli said.

Botticelli added a call for Congress to pass $1.1 billion in new funding to states to help pay for treatment programs.

“Every day that passes without congressional action to provide these additional resources is a missed opportunity to save lives,” Botticelli said.

The application for HDTA designation was submitted by the Northwest Virginia Regional Drug Task Force and the federal Drug Enforcement Administration. The Northern Shenandoah Valley Substance Abuse Coalition, lawmakers and other organizations contributed supporting letters. Area organizations have tried twice before to be included in the part of the HDTA centered on Washington, D.C., and Baltimore. This year’s application included Shenandoah and Warren counties but they were omitted from the list of counties chosen by the drug policy agency.

Lauren Cummings, executive director of the Northern Shenandoah Valley Substance Abuse Coalition, said the drug task force will continue lobbying next year and beyond, if necessary, to have Shenandoah and Warren counties included in the HDTA designation.

“We’re very excited that the third time was the charm as far as getting Frederick County designated,” Cummings said.

The Northwest Virginia Regional Drug Task Force jurisdiction includes Frederick, Warren, Shenandoah, Page and Clarke counties and Winchester, an area that has recorded 23 deaths so far this year from drug overdoses identified as heroin or other opiates. There were 30 such deaths in the area in 2015.

Cummings added that she believed the entire region will benefit from Frederick County’s designation.

She said the improved gathering and sharing of intelligence among law enforcement agencies is likely to be one of the benefits of the extra federal funding. Much of the work will be done at the HDTA headquarters in Maryland.

“The analysts there, they just have tremendous resources that our area has been in desperate need of, and we’re just very excited that at least one locality is receiving this designation,” Cummings said.

Although Frederick County is the only officially designated HDTA county in the drug task force jurisdiction, the information obtained through the county’s new relationship with the HDTA will also flow to other area law enforcement agencies, Cummings said.

Contact staff writer Joe Beck at 540-465-5137 ext. 142, or jbeck@nvdaily.com