LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Jefferson County has the highest number of drug overdoses in the state. Now Louisville becomes one of four cities nationwide to try a program aimed at stopping the cycle of drug trafficking, abuse and violence.

As DEA Louisville pulls piles of drugs and cash off the streets, it's now trying a new approach to cut off the drug pipeline. Louisville becomes one of four cities for a pilot program called DEA 360. It involves law enforcement, prevention and treatment, and community outreach. The agency says the goal is to get all three components on the same page to work toward solving the heroin and opiate abuse epidemic.  

The strategy also includes partnerships with healthcare professionals, social service organizations and government service agencies to provide long-term help and support.They are working together towards having drug-free communities.

Thomas Gorman is the Assistant Special Agent in Charge and says the comprehensive strategy is the first of its kind for DEA and local organizations.

"If you look at the investigations that we did seven years ago, the heroin cases -- I'm talking about Louisville specifically -- was probably 25 percent of most of our cases," Gorman said. "Now nearly every one our cases has a heroin component to the investigation. We need to be vigilant in addressing drug trafficking organizations. They are bringing this in large quantities into the area and we need to stop that flow or impact that flow as much as we can."

The CDC says there are 129 drug overdose deaths every day in the U.S. The strategy includes educating medical professionals and pharmacists on pain management. 

When asked how much the new strategy will help stop the heroin epidemic, Gorman says, "I think this will be significant. This is a test city, so we'll see. I think the potential here is impactful."

The DEA says it's trying to break the cycle of violence and addiction generated by the drug cartels and violent gangs. Drugs are coming across the Mexican border into large metropolitan cities, then distributed to local communities. 

"These drug trafficking organizations are predators," Gorman said. "There's no other way to describe it. They look for the vulnerable, they exploit them by finding them while they are trying to get treatment; that's how severe, how bad these drug trafficking organizations are to find their customer and peddle their poison."

Gorman says the goal is to target all levels of drug traffickers, but mostly those on top.

"We're going to put together a task force and this task force is going to put together building federal cases based on these overdoses, and there is significant sentencing around and this is a way to impact straight into the organization and take out upper level members of an organization that directly impact the flow of drugs," Gorman said.

The DEA is partnering with Louisville Metro Police for the federal overdose prosecution program.

"The heroin epidemic, ravaging communities across America, brings with it violence, addiction and death," said John Kuhn, Jr., the United States Attorney for the Western District of Kentucky. "We must do more, and today we announce new initiatives to improve our community education efforts and to get heroin dealers off the street."

The DEA wants people to come forward with information on drug dealers, but stresses they're not after the drug abusers. 

"We're going to have a summit where we are going to bring in partners from law enforcement from prevention and education, in treatment and the medical community ... and begin to cross lanes where we might not normally before where everybody can help each other," Gorman said. 

The DEA is going to bring messages to the community with billboards, public service announcements and working with after school programs. The agency says the program serves as a model for communities struggling to break cycle of drug trafficking, abuse and violence

The DEA 360 strategy starts in Louisville immediately and runs for a year. The program is also in Milwaukee, St. Louis and Pittsburgh.  

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