Justice Department officials to talk about opioids in Cleveland Wednesday

August 21, 2018

Justice Department officials to talk about opioids in Cleveland Wednesday

CLEVELAND, Ohio -- Officials from the Justice Department in Washington, D.C. are expected to visit Cleveland Wednesday to talk about law enforcement efforts to combat the nation’s opioid epidemic.

A news conference will be held at 12:20 p.m. Wednesday in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in downtown Cleveland. The news release announcing the visit only identified those attending as “senior department officials.”

It noted that a list of attendees was forthcoming.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office had planned for Attorney General Jeff Sessions to visit Cleveland on Wednesday, multiple sources told cleveland.com. It was not immediately clear if the Justice Department’s plans changed.

Cleveland and Cuyahoga County have been hit hard by the nation’s opioid epidemic. Hundreds have died from overdoses each year for the past few years, with a record-high 727 deaths in 2017. The majority involved fentanyl, according to the Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner’s Office.

A federal judge in Cleveland is also overseeing more than 1,000 federal lawsuits, mostly filed by local and state governments, against the makers and distributers of prescription painkillers.

Sessions and his Justice Department have pushed the idea that increased prosecution will lead to fewer overdoses deaths. While prosecutors brought cases against drug dealers suspected of selling a dose to someone who died during the previous administration, Sessions has talked about wanting to bring more federal cases involving drugs and violent crime.

Many of those priorities, which tend to shift along with presidential administrations, are noticeable in the cases brought by the U.S. Attorney’s Office after Sessions took over. Federal prosecutors continue to charge cases involving small and large amounts of opioids, and recently announced a plan to charge every “readily provable” offense involving dealing synthetic opioids in Lorain County.

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