DEA Launches Initiative to Reduce Drug Use, Abuse, and Overdose Deaths

Last week, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) launched Operation Engage, an initiative aimed at reducing drug use, abuse and overdoses through evidence-based prevention approaches and community outreach. The initiative will expand upon the DEA’s 360 Strategy, an approach focused on opioids, by encouraging each DEA field division to identify their jurisdiction’s primary drug threat and collaborate with healthcare professionals and community organizations to implement community-based solutions, provide long-term support, and build drug-free communities. The Operation Engage targets for 2021 are Manchester, New Hampshire, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Washington, DC, Southern California, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Broward County, Florida, Chippewa County, Michigan, Albuquerque, New Mexico, Yavapai County, Arizona, Anchorage, Alaska, and Wichita, Kansas. In a press release, DEA Acting Administrator D. Christopher Evans said, “Working alongside our federal, state, and local law enforcement partners, as well as specialists in prevention, treatment, and education, we are raising awareness to make our communities safer. We will help empower individuals, families, and communities to do their part to help reduce the demand for drugs and get help for those who need it.”

Articles & Resources

Drug Enforcement Administration – DEA Rolls Out Operation Engage

Operation Engage

Operation Engage Fact Sheet


Two Bipartisan Bills Introduced to Address Drug Scheduling and Expanding Telehealth Services

Two bills were introduced last week to respond to the rise in overdose deaths during the COVID-19 pandemic. Senators Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Rob Portman (R-OH) reintroduced the Federal Initiative to Guarantee Health by Targeting (FIGHT) Fentanyl Act to make the Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) temporary fentanyl scheduling order, which will expire May 2022, permanent. In a press release, Senator Portman stated, “This deadly, synthetic drug knows no zip code and is devastating individuals and families all across the country. This bipartisan legislation is vital to our efforts to keep fentanyl out of our communities, and I urge my colleagues to join Senator Manchin and me in passing this common-sense legislation.” Senators Portman and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) also introduced the Telehealth Response for E-prescribing Addiction Therapy Services (TREATS) Act to make certain temporary waivers, including waivers that allow for prescribing medication assisted therapy without in-person visits and allow for billing to Medicare for audio-only telehealth services, available beyond the current Public Health Emergency. The TREATS Act is supported by American Society for Addiction Medicine, National Safety Council, Community Catalyst, Boston Medical Center, National Association of Addiction Treatment Providers, Shatterproof and The Kennedy Forum.

Articles & Resources

Senator Joe Manchin – Manchin, Portman Introduce Bipartisan FIGHT Fentanyl Act to Permanently Schedule Fentanyl-Related Substances

Senator Rob Portman – Portman, Whitehouse Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Increase Access to Telehealth Services for Substance Use Disorder Treatment

2701– FIGHT Fentanyl Act

4103– TREATS Act

Representative David Trone – Rep. Trone Introduces Bipartisan Legislation to Help Prevent Opioid Addiction

Bill Text

Bill Summary


Bipartisan, Bicameral Group of Lawmakers Reintroduce Bill to Eliminate Physician X-Waiver Requirements for Prescribing Buprenorphine

Following their February 8th letter to President Biden encouraging him to support increasing access to medication-assisted treatments, Senators Maggie Hassan (D-NH) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Representatives Paul D. Tonko (D-NY-20) and Michael Turner (R-OH-10) reintroduced the Mainstreaming Addiction Treatment Act (MAT) Act. The MAT Act would eliminate the training and X-waiver requirements for physicians who want to prescribe buprenorphine. In a press release, Senator Lisa Murkowski said, “It’s critical that we ensure that Americans struggling with these issues have access to safe, effective, life-saving treatments. This legislation will expand access to Medically Assisted Treatments and eliminate barriers to important behavioral health and community-based therapies. Access to care is the key to solving any medical issue—the substance-use epidemic is no different.”

Articles & Resources

Senator Lisa Murkowski – Murkowski, Hassan, Tonko, Turner Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Broaden Access to Addiction Treatment

S. 2074 – MAT Act


What We Read Last Week

Several articles were published last week pertaining to the opioid epidemic, covering a variety of different components of the issue. Links to relevant articles are provided below.

Articles & Resources

Arthritis Care & Research – Societal Cost of Opioid Use in Symptomatic Knee Osteoarthritis Patients in the United States

Bloomberg Law – Telehealth, Electronic Records Draw Anti-Kickback Attention

Bloomberg Law – In Birth and Death, Opioid Crisis to Leave Mark Long After Covid

Delaware Department of Health and Social Services – Medicaid Providers Invited to Participate in Program to Increase Access to Medications to Treat Opioid Use Disorder

Health Affairs – Institutions For Mental Diseases Medicaid Waivers: Impact On Payments For Substance Use Treatment Facilities

Kentucky.gov – Attorney General Cameron, Legislators, KACo, KLC Join Forces in Support of Bill to Share Opioid Settlement Dollars

Radio Times – “Under Our Roof:” Rep. Madeleine Dean and son Harry Cunnane on addiction and recovery

Senator Maggie Hassan – Senator Hassan Pushes for Continued Focus on Substance Misuse Epidemic During Nomination Hearing for Health and Human Services Secretary, Attorney General Xavier Becerra

The Hill – Biden health nominee faces first Senate test

The Hill – X the X-Waiver: How Congress can facilitate treatment for opioid abuse

The New York Times – Head of McKinsey Is Voted Out as Firm Faces Reckoning on Opioid Crisis

The Pew Charitable Trusts – Federal Agencies Should Extend Pandemic Flexibilities for Treating Opioid Use Disorder

U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Maryland – Baltimore Fentanyl Dealer Sentenced to More Than Seven Years in Federal Prison for Distributing More Than 400 Grams of Fentanyl—Enough to Kill 20,000 People

U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Kentucky – Cincinnati Man Sentenced to 188 Months for Distribution of Fentanyl and Heroin

U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Missouri – Justice Department files lawsuit against Creve Coeur pharmacist for Controlled Substances Act violations

U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania – Chester County Pharmacy Agrees to Resolve Civil Allegations of Improper Dispensing of Controlled Substances for $225,000

U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania – Lancaster County Pharmacy and Pharmacist Agree to Resolve Civil Allegations of Dispensing Controlled Substances Without a Prescription and Falsely Billing Medicare for $2.9 Million

U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia – Multi-Kilogram Fentanyl Trafficker Sentenced

U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Illinois – Federal Indictment Charges Suburban Chicago Man With Trafficking Fentanyl and Illegally Possessing Loaded Guns

U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of New York – Eleven Men Indicted for Syracuse Heroin and Fentanyl Trafficking Conspiracy

U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Ohio – Parma Heights man charged with selling fentanyl that led to fatal overdose

U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of West Virginia – Operation X-Nation: New York Man Pleads Guilty to Federal Drug Crime

U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Washington – Three allegedly responsible for distributing thousands of fentanyl pills in Whatcom County indicted for drug distribution

UAMS – UAMS Receives $2.3 Million to Reimburse Facilities that Provide Medication-Assisted Treatment for Opioid Use

USC News – Risk factors for opioid relapse differ between men and women

UT Southwestern – Three longtime antibiotics could offer alternative to addictive opioid pain relievers

WVU Today – West Virginia’s enduring, intertwined epidemics: Opioids and HIV


This Week’s Calendar

In the week ahead, there are no relevant events or hearings noticed at this time. In the event that there are any changes to the schedule for this week, we will make additional information available.


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