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Local U.S. attorney elected to HIDTA board

The United States Attorney responsible for Monongalia County was unanimously elected as vice-chief of the Appalachia High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area executive board.

HITDA has been beneficial to West Virginia and other Appalachian states, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of West Virginia William Powell said.

“It’s essentially served as a conduit for resources for task force agencies and the like that are incredibly important to rural states,” he told The Dominion Post.

The HITDA, which includes 93 counties in Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia, helps those rural task forces compete with large city agencies from a resource standpoint, Powell said. The cooperative effort between federal, state and local agencies, especially between the northern and southern districts of West Virginia is great and Powell said he hopes to add counties that could use those resources to the HITDA.

Those resources include money, training and equipment. Powell said the money is key because it supports the overtime officers put in working on these task forces but that their local departments can’t afford.

After his term as vice-chief of the board, Powell will automatically serve as its chief.

Fentanyl is having the deadliest impact on communities and meth distribution is on the rise, Powell said. However, heroin is not out and there is still a significant amount of it.

The meth these days is in the 95-100% purity range compared to the 60-65% purity of before, Powell said. It’s easy to make in labs in Mexico and China and “extraordinarily addictive.”

Fentanyl is added to heroin because it’s a cheap way to increase the high for people who have built an opioid tolerance, Powell said. It’s very deadly.

There are extra safety protocols when dealing with suspected fentanyl as even breathing it in can be fatal, Powell said.

The HIDTA has been a great benefit to the state and Powell said he will keep fighting for additional resources for the state to continue the fight.