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White House pledges millions to combat heroin epidemic

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MARTHA’S VINEYARD, Massachusetts — The White House announced Monday a new, $2.5 million initiative designed to target heroin trafficking along the Eastern seaboard, where use of the drug has spiked in recent years.

The plan targets 15 states from New England to Washington for new partnerships between public health and law enforcement agencies, with the goal of prioritizing treatment of addiction over punishment for users.

In each state, a public health official will be paired with a law enforcement specialist to coordinate new heroin response teams, who will share information after overdose incidents and drug raids.

A massive uptick in heroin use nationwide has been linked to the growing use of addictive prescription opiates, and the widespread availability of cheap heroin.

Since 2002, overdose deaths from heroin have nearly quadrupled.

The White House plan unveiled Monday seeks to better map trafficking routes, as well as train first responders to better treat overdoses. Officials want greater access to naloxone, a drug administered to reverse the effects of an overdose.