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Attorney General Jeff Sessions discusses the opioid crisis, Friday, Oct. 27, 2017, at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York.

Mark Lennihan / AP

Last Updated Nov 29, 2017 11:54 AM EST

Attorney General Jeff Sessions held a press conference at the Justice Department on Wednesday to announce new tools the department is undertaking to combat the nation’s crippling opioid crisis. 

In a joint effort, the DOJ and DEA announced three new initiatives they say will help combat what is considered “the worst drug crisis in American history,” according to prepared remarks by Sessions.

The initiatives will include:

  • Investments of $12 million in funding for state and local law enforcement partners to tackle heroin and methamphetamine issues 
  • Restructuring of the DEA’s Field Divisions for the first time in nearly 20 years, including opening up a new office in Louisville, Kentucky
  • New requirements for all federal prosecutors’ offices to designate an Opioid Coordinator who will customize our anti-opioid strategy in every district in America.

Sessions said in prepared remarks that the steps “will make our law enforcement efforts smarter and more effective—and ultimately they will save American lives.”

Acting DEA Administrator Robert Patterson added in prepared remarks that with the creation of a new field division and restructuring, the “change will produce more effective investigations on heroin, fentanyl, and prescription opioid trafficking.”

Sessions also said that White House adviser Kellyanne Conway will be leading the charge in combatting the epidemic from the White House, representing the administration’s ongoing efforts. 

The attorney general said that Conway was “exceedingly talented” and said she “understands messaging” of the crisis.

The Wednesday announcement comes after both the DOJ and DEA unveiled new measures earlier this month to allow federal prosecutors to charge people who traffic fentanyl analogues or synthetics as if they were true forms of fentanyl. 

Under the new orders, anyone who possesses, imports, distributes, or manufactures any illicit fentanyl analogue will be subject to criminal prosecution, just as those who traffic in fentanyl and other controlled substances are.  The DOJ said the move would “make it easier for federal prosecutors and agents to prosecute traffickers of all forms of fentanyl-related substances.”

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