Manchester, New Hampshire is now one of only five cities across the entire country to implement a unique program aimed at attacking the heroin epidemic.
Federal, state, and local leaders gathered at the Manchester Boys and Girls Club Tuesday to announce the launch of the DEA 360 Strategy, making the Queen City only the fifth city in the nation to implement the program.
The 360 Degree Strategy project started last year in Pittsburgh and has since been expanded to several other cities. It focuses on dismantling drug trafficking organizations and violent gangs, pushing for responsible prescribing of opioid drugs and empowering communities through partnerships with government and social service organizations.
The program is a collaborative effort between the DEA, state, and local police, health care professionals, and several social organizations.
“All of us working together under one tent and sharing the best practices for our youth,” said DEA Special Agent in Charge Michael Ferguson.
It’s appropriate DEA officials made this announcement at the Boys and Girls Club because one of the primary strategies of this program is prevention and they’re getting the message to kids sooner than ever before.
Ten year old AJ Sebastian and the rest of his fifth grade class performed a dance they had practiced only once before.
“I feel better more confident, like I can do anything,” Sebastian told necn Tuesday.
It’s that sense of empowerment early on that officials say will give these kids the strength to say no to drugs.
“That’s why we started the whole thing,” said Assistant Special Agent in Charge John DeLena. “We are offering these kids a healthy alternative.”
The Drug Enforcement Administration’s Youth Dance Program is just one small piece of the DEA 360 strategy.
The new program, bringing new hope to city residents like Tracey Bachert.
“Looking in the window our family was perfect, until it wasn’t,” Bachert said to the crowd.
Her son, Justin, got addicted to heroin by using prescription drugs.
“I’ll admit it it’s not something we discussed a lot in our house,” Bachert said.
DEA 360 plans to change that by talking to this next generation about some tough truths.
“With heroin and fentanyl often times you don’t get a second chance and that’s just how deadly it is,” Ferguson said.
Tracy Bachert’s son has been clean for a full year. She’s looking forward to being a part of DEA 360 to help other families navigate such a difficult journey.
New Hampshire Attorney General Joseph Foster said Tuesday he hopes to someday be able to implement DEA 360 into other cities across the state.
Residents across New England will see a DEA 360 media blitz on billboards, radio, and TV in the next two weeks.