U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Congressman Andy Barr (KY-06) announced today that Montgomery and Powell counties in Kentucky have been chosen for inclusion in the Appalachia High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTA) program.
The HIDTA program provides agencies in designated counties with coordination, equipment, technology, and additional resources to combat drug production and trafficking. The Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) contacted Senator McConnell and Congressman Barr, who have advocated on behalf of the counties’ inclusion, to inform them of the decision to include the Kentucky counties. The two Kentucky counties are two of only 10 counties nationwide to receive new HIDTA designations this year.
Kentucky has been especially devastated by the nation’s drug epidemic, losing more than 1,500 Kentuckians last year alone to drug overdoses. Montgomery and Powell counties are experiencing a significant challenge due to the drug epidemic. In particular, these communities suffer from an overwhelming number of drug-related offenses driven primarily by the influx of illicit methamphetamines and opioids. The geographic locations of these counties, situated near Lexington and intersected and closely bordered by major interstates and highways, are extremely attractive to drug traffickers in the region.
“I regularly hear from Kentucky law enforcement that the HIDTA program provides the tools and training to make a real difference in efforts to protect Kentucky families from illegal drugs. Appalachia HIDTA, which I have long supported, has proven itself a force multiplier in combating the production, distribution, and trafficking of illicit substances in the Commonwealth and throughout the region,” said Senator McConnell, who earlier this year, contacted James Carroll, Jr., ONDCP Deputy Director, on behalf of his constituents in support of Montgomery and Powell counties’ application. “I want to thank the ONDCP for adding Montgomery and Powell counties to further expand drug interdiction efforts. Montgomery and Powell County law enforcement officials are working overtime to combat drug trafficking in the region. By better leveraging government resources, we can help to stop the flow of illicit substances throughout Kentucky and elsewhere in the United States.”
"In a state that suffers from the third highest opioid overdose death rate in the nation, it is critical that we provide our local officials the resources they need to stop the flow of illegal, deadly drugs into our communities. Throughout my service in Congress, I’ve been a strong advocate for the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTA) program, passing an amendment just this year, which helped increase the program’s total funding to $280 million,” said Congressman Barr. “I applaud the dedication of Montgomery and Powell County officials for working with my office to secure this designation. Their collaborative work with Kentucky’s law enforcement and other HIDTA-designated counties will be a tremendous boost in our efforts to fight drug trafficking and substance abuse in Kentucky.”
“The inclusion of Montgomery County in the Appalachia HIDTA is great news,” said Montgomery County Sheriff Fred Shortridge. “I would especially like to thank Senator McConnell and Congressman Barr for leading on this issue and for being strong advocates on our behalf. Increasing the federal resources available to our community, in partnership with state and local law enforcement, will help us keep Kentucky’s families safe. We need every tool we can get our hands on to combat illegal drugs, and this announcement will help us do that.”
“As substance abuse continues to devastate our community, the Mount Sterling Police Department is ready to fight back, and we are so glad to have federal reinforcements,” said Mount Sterling Police Department Chief of Police, Wayne Green. “Montgomery County’s inclusion in the Appalachia HIDTA will improve our ability to repel drugs and treat addiction. Senator McConnell’s tireless work to combat drug addiction in Kentucky has made this possible, and I would like to thank him on behalf of the entire department and the community. We look forward to continue working with him to help save lives.”
“Powell County is and has been experiencing devastating consequences form this nation-wide drug epidemic,” said Powell County Sheriff Danny Rogers. “Because Powell County sits at the intersection of several major highways, we are especially vulnerable to major drug transportation. Thanks to Senator McConnell and Congressman Barr’s efforts, we will now have the support of HIDTA. This program will enable the county law enforcement to continue and to intensify our efforts in combating this terrible scourge.”
“Law enforcement officers in Powell County are receiving the help we need to protect our community from substance abuse,” said Chief of Police Arthur Lacy of the Stanton Police Department. “By joining the Appalachia HIDTA, we can better access federal resources to combat the constant threat of drugs has on our families. Senator McConnell and Congressman Barr deserve the credit for always being strong voices for our community and bringing this important designation home. Our mission to protect and serve the people of Stanton just got a little bit easier.”
Senator McConnell has a long history of helping raise awareness of the issue of opioid and substance abuse by working closely with federal, state, and local medical authorities, treatment centers and law-enforcement agencies. He has hosted former directors of the ONDCP in Kentucky on several occasions to witness first-hand the scope of the problem. He has also fought for the expansion of the Appalachia HIDTA to hard-hit counties across the state, including Jefferson County in 2009, Hardin County in 2012, Nelson and Madison Counties in 2014, Christian County in 2016. He also helped secure the inclusion of Boone, Campbell and Kentucky Counties in the Ohio HIDTA in 2016.
Since 2013, Congressman Barr has helped secure HIDTA designations for three counties – Madison, Montgomery and Powell – in the Sixth District. This year he offered an amendment that was included in the Consolidated Appropriations Act to increase funding for the program by $6 million to help fully fund the program at $280 million. In March, during a meeting at the White House, Congressman Barr personally relayed to the President and Vice President his support for keeping the HIDTA program within the ONDCP. He also recommended a greater percentage of the HIDTA funding to be given to states with the highest opioid-related overdose death rates, such as Kentucky, to help local law enforcement fight drug trafficking.