Several Southwest Virginia counties targeted for high drug traffic

From CBS sister station WJHL:

It's a designation no one wants: drug activity so intense it's demanding the attention of a national drug task force.

The Southwest Virginia drug task force is reporting dangerously high levels of drug cases in Lee, Scott and Wise counties. In 2010 law enforcement agents investigated 730 drug related cases in those areas and in Dickenson County.

This year agents worked 400 cases and expect to reach 500 by the end of the year.

The drug task force reports 85% of cases involved prescription pills, but help to fight the problem is on the way

The force is called H.I.D.T.A. or High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area.

What they do is provide money to help local law enforcement train more, pay for overtime and buy more and better equipment to do their jobs.

H.I.D.T.A. has $7 million to distribute every year to law enforcement agencies across the country, and the ones considered high intensity drug trafficking areas.

The money is divided up based on the needs of each department, and it's not just local law enforcement and those involved with drugs that will be effected by this new initiative.

According to Timothy Heaphy, the U.S. Attorney for Western Virginia, it has a serious economic impact that effects everyone.

"It has healthcare costs that are spread to all healthcare consumers," Heaphy said. "There is lost productivity. You know there are employers who say they have a hard time finding a workforce of people who are not struggling with drug abuse."

There is also a plan to involve prevention and recovery groups. Heaphy says they need to get to the root of the problem and begin stopping it before it starts and helping addicts to recover.

Heaphy says that Scott, Wise and Lee counties are just a starting point. There are 22 other counties in Virginia that have been recommended for H.I.D.T.A. assistance, and five are right here in our region.

Those include: Buchanan, Russell, Smyth, Tazewell and Washington.

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