U.S. Rep. Joe Kennedy on Tuesday used a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on U.S.-Mexico relations to raise the issue of a Massachusetts heroin overdose epidemic with a State Department official.
Saying Bristol County in his Congressional district is on the “frontlines,” Kennedy [D-Brookline] pointed to Taunton police stating there have been 140 heroin overdoses in 2014.
“Equally concerning is the recent Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration report that shows 12.3 percent of Massachusetts youth between the ages of 12 and 17 reported using illicit drugs within a month before the survey was conducted. Compare that to the national average of 9.8 percent,” Kennedy added.
The State Department official, Assistant Secretary William Brownfield of the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, said the U.S. has a “nationwide heroin crisis . . . and Mexico is very much a part of this issue,” according to Kennedy’s office.
The U.S. and Mexico have a partnership, called the Merida Initiative, which is focused on battling drug trafficking and organized crime. In his testimony, Brownfield said, “Since 2008, our assistance under the Merida Initiative has helped advance Mexico’s implementation of these reforms.To date, the U.S. government has delivered approximately $1.2 billion worth of training, capacity building, and equipment.”
For its part, Mexico’s government has spent billions, he added. Mexico has caught over 70 senior and mid-level drug-traffickers since 2009, including Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman Loera, Brownfield said.