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Drug enforcement groups changing strategy regarding overdose deaths
Officers seek new ways to reduce overdoses, prosecute dealers
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Law enforcement groups throughout North Georgia are working a new plan of attack on opioid overdoses to target dealers and suppliers.

The Appalachian Regional Drug Enforcement Office announced Monday it would send agents to an overdose death investigation to support the local sheriff’s office or police.

The local office would lead the investigation and take on the case as a homicide, according to Georgia Bureau of Investigation Special Agent in Charge Mitchell Posey in a news release.

“The best legal path on the state level for an overdose with a death is felony murder but the burden of proof is high. Currently there are no existing state laws for which the drug dealer can be held accountable for the near death of the victim in which the victim’s life was only saved through medical intervention.The existing federal statute for which the dealer may be held responsible may be utilized in these types of cases,” Posey said in a news release.

The drug enforcement office includes agencies from White, Lumpkin, Towns, Banks, Habersham, Stephens, Rabun and Franklin counties.

Hall County Multi-Agency Narcotics Squad Lt. Don Scalia said his agency is also looking at mirroring the drug enforcement office with its cases.

“We’re proposing sort of a similar setup to them, and we’re finalizing the details (Tuesday) and (Wednesday),” he said.

The drug enforcement office will also respond in overdose cases where the victim is revived by Naloxone, an opioid antidote.

“If it were not for the use of Naloxone and fast-acting first responders, our heroin/fentanyl/opioid overdose death rate would be much higher,” Posey said in a news release.

Posey said the drug enforcement office’s control board believes these tactics “will have a positive impact in greatly reducing the number of drug overdose deaths and saving lives in our area of operation.”

“We’re more interested in the drug enforcement aspect of it as far as trying to catch the people who are dealing the heroin, especially the heroin mixed with fentanyl, and shutting down the supply,” Scalia said.

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