U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell announced today that Drug Czar Gil Kerlikowske has included Hardin County, Kentucky, in the Appalachia High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA). Earlier this month, Sen. McConnell continued to advocate on behalf of Hardin County's HIDTA designation during a meeting with Director Kerlikowske in his office in the U.S. Capitol.
"With expansion of Fort Knox, Hardin County is the fastest growing county in the state, sits at an important transportation crossroads, and has endured a significant increase in drug-related crimes," McConnell said. "The inclusion of Hardin County into the HIDTA will result in local access to federal law enforcement, training, and technology resources to combat threats from illegal prescription drugs, meth production, marijuana cultivation, and other dangerous drugs."
The commanding general at Fort Knox, located in Hardin County, supported this HIDTA designation to help protect his soldiers, military families, and the surrounding Fort Knox community. Hardin County's HIDTA involvement will enhance collaboration between military Drug Suppression Teams and civilian counter-narcotics efforts in the region.
Kentucky is losing more than 82 people a month to drug overdose and nearly 1,000 deaths were attributed to drug overdoses in 2009, more than those killed in motor vehicle accidents. In 2010, law enforcement responded to 1,100 meth labs across the state and Kentucky ranks as one of the top marijuana producing states in the nation. Prescription drugs, primarily opiate narcotics, are considered the number one drug related problem faced by Kentucky law enforcement.
"In today's tough fiscal climate, the HIDTA program is a responsible way to leverage federal personnel and expertise in tandem with state and local law enforcement partners to address the growing threat of such substances as prescriptions drugs and methamphetamine to Kentucky communities," Senator McConnell said. "I am grateful for Director Kerlikowske for his continued focus on helping fight illegal drug use and production in the Commonwealth. I'd also like to thank United States Attorney for the Western District of Kentucky David J. Hale and Elizabethtown Police Chief Tracy A. Schiller for their strong local leadership in helping Hardin County to achieve designation."
"Senator McConnell was eager to help facilitate the HIDTA designation and had a keen understanding of both the need and the potential positive impact on our community," Elizabethtown Police Chief Schiller said. "He worked hard to ensure the Drug Czar understood Hardin County's challenges, and he was instrumental in helping make this happen."
Background: Sen. McConnell invited Director Kerlikowske to Kentucky in 2011 to see firsthand the scope of Kentucky's challenges with illegal drugs. The Senator also wrote him in support of Hardin County's inclusion in 2011. Sen. McConnell spoke with Kerlikowske in July and August 2012, to continue his advocacy for Hardin County.