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NPR NEWS 2018-04-11
04-12-2018, 10:42 PM
Post: #1
NPR NEWS 2018-04-11

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President Trump's administration has named a federal prosecutor to oversee the fight against opioids. NPR's Ryan Lucas spoke with the new so-called opioid coordinator.
RYAN LUCAS, BYLINE: Mary Daly cut her teeth as a prosecutor working drug cases in Brooklyn. She then moved to Virginia, where she rose to become chief of the narcotics unit, handling cases involving gangs and international drug traffickers. Now she's the Justice Department's opioid coordinator, in short, its point person on the opioid CRIsis that is killing, on average, 115 Americans every day.
MARY DALY: It's a lot different than being in the field. But one of the reasons I took the job was because I felt like it was an opportunity to help with this problem on a larger scale than I was as a prosecutor.
LUCAS: The scale of the opioid addiction problem is immense. It has become so widespread that the administration has begun calling it the CRIsis next door. Daly doesn't know anybody personally who's died from an opioid overdose, but she says that doesn't mean she hasn't seen the epidemic's toll.
DALY: I've been a drug prosecutor for 13 years, and I have to tell you I have never seen anything like this.
LUCAS: Over her career, Daly has helped prosecute drug cases of all stripes - from marijuana to heroin and everything in between. But she says when the powerful synthetic opioid fentanyl began showing up a few years ago, it was a game changer.
DALY: Fentanyl is very scary because it's being laced in heroin. But not only heroin - it's now showing up in cocaine. It's now being pressed into counterfeit pills.
LUCAS: And those fentanyl-laced drugs often prove deadly for unsuspecting recreational drug users. Last month, President Trump unveiled his plan for tackling the CRIsis. His proposal did include expanded access for treatment and recovery services. But in a speech in New Hampshire, Trump emphasized a get-tough law enforcement approach. That fueled concerns in some quarters that the administration wants to return to the heavy-handed drug war tactics of years past. Here's Tym Rourke, a treatment advocate.
TYM ROURKE: Good drug policy is about a balance between reducing supply and reducing demand. And a lot of the language and rhetoric that comes out does feel a little too heavy on the law enforcement side. And that's the part that is most concerning.
LUCAS: Daly says she understands the need for treatment and recovery. But she adds...
DALY: I think we should not underplay in the importance of aggressive enforcement when it comes to this epidemic.
LUCAS: It's Daly's job to act as a hub for the Justice Department's various efforts. She oversees prosecutors assigned to focus on health care fraud in opioid hotspots. She worked with federal authorities who are targeting the flow of heroin and fentanyl into the country and going after online vendors. And she has a hand in Justice Department efforts to support state and local governments engaged in litigation with drug companies. In her new job, Daly works out of an office on the fourth floor of the Justice Department in Washington. And it marks a return of sorts for her. She used to visit the building as a kid when her father, William Barr, served as President George H.W. Bush's attorney general.
DALY: I was young when he was attorney general, and I have great memories of coming to the Department of Justice.
LUCAS: Now she shows up every day at the department, and she has a weighty task - trying to reduce the number of Americans dying in one of the worst drug crises in the nation's history. Ryan Lucas, NPR News, Washington.
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