Law & Order Alone Aren't Enough To Combat Opioids And Violent Crime (Just Ask The Pennsylvania AG)

Aug 11, 2017

A commission created by President Donald Trump asked him to declare a state of emergency over the nation’s opioid epidemic. Earlier this week, he declined. On Thursday, according to a White House pool report, he changed his mind.

The declaration would free the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to grant additional funding for resources, address leadership shortfalls and make changes to Medicaid coverage.

The full list of recommendations came from a preliminary draft of a commissioned report that estimated nearly 60,000 people died in 2016 nationwide from opioid overdoses alone. Pennsylvania accounted for an estimated 4,600 deaths, according to the Drug Enforcement Agency -- approximately 900 from Philadelphia and more than 600 from Allegheny County.

Joining us to talk about the declaration and its windfall are Elana Gordon, health and science reporter for WHYY in Philadelphia, and Megan Guza, crime reporter for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

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City officials announced a fresh crack at Group Violence Intervention this week, aiming to quell gang activity and gun violence with renewed officer support. Police will still arrest, but also try "less traditional avenues like calling in building inspectors to condemn an unsafe structure that has been at the center of violence," according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Its predecessor, the Pittsburgh Initiative to Reduce Crime, failed shortly after its own introduction in 2010.

Shelly Bradbury, crime reporter for the Post-Gazette, says the department seems energized about the new start. The 11-person unit was designed to involve the entire bureau, probation and parole officers, community organizations and federal support.

David Harris, University of Pittsburgh law professor and host of WESA's Criminal Injustice podcast, also spoke to the project's creator, David Kennedy earlier this year.

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State attorneys general used to be above politics. Now they're flexing their muscle in national policy debates and, occasionally, waging war on each other. Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro is often on those front lines.

Investigative reporters Paula Knudsen and Mike Wereschagin covered the issue and its national implications for The Caucus, a weekly print-only newspaper covering state government and politics.

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The Confluence, where the news comes together, is 90.5 WESA’s weekly news program. Each week, reporters, editors and bloggers join veteran journalist and host Kevin Gavin to take an in-depth look at the stories important to the Pittsburgh region.

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