On Thursday, Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey announced the state will use $1.3 million in federal grant money to establish a new statewide drug task force that will operate in cooperation with local and state law enforcement agencies.
The total task force will comprise more than 90 officers from more than 40 agencies and will operate alongside 25 narcotics agents from the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency forming seven regional multi-jurisdictional offices. These units will share resources with a unified goal of reducing the impact of drugs and dismantling drug organizations in Alabama.
Friday morning, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) pushed back against Ivey’s announcement saying treatment and access to anti-overdose drugs, not prosecution, is the most effective way to combat the state’s opioid epidemic.
“Governor Ivey’s misguided decision to invest $1.3 million in creating a Drug Enforcement Task Force indicates she is ignoring the advice of medical professionals, public health experts, and the Alabama Opioid Overdose and Addiction Council she herself created by executive order – all of whom agree that treatment and access to anti-overdose drugs, not prosecution, is the most effective response to the devastation caused by the opioid epidemic,” said Lisa Graybill, Deputy Legal Director of the SPLC
Graybill continued, “Alabama has the highest rate of opioid prescription among all 50 states, and we can’t afford to get this wrong. But Governor Ivey is throwing money away by investing in the same lock ‘em up approach of the failed war on drugs, which will accomplish little beyond sending yet more people into an already horrifically overcrowded Alabama prison system with ‘persistent and severe shortages of mental-health staff and correctional staff.’ We can’t prosecute our way out of this public health crisis. Hiring more police won’t save lives; treatment will, and that’s where taxpayers’ money should go.”