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Justice Department Announces Results in Fight Against the Opioid Crisis Two Years after Launch of Operation S.O.S.

Gerald Scroop

September 24, 2020

In July 2018, the Department of Justice announced the launch of Operation Synthetic Opioid Surge (S.O.S), a program aimed at reducing the supply of synthetic opioids in 10 high impact areas and identifying wholesale distribution networks and international and domestic suppliers.

Two years ago, under Operation SOS, the U.S. Attorneys in 10 districts with some of the highest drug overdose death rates in the country each designated a county where they would focus on prosecuting every readily available case involving fentanyl, fentanyl analogues, and other synthetic opioids, regardless of the drug quantity.

Over these two years, Operation SOS has resulted in approximately 750 defendants being charged in federal court, with 384 of those defendants charged thus far in FY 20.  Most importantly, the districts participating in the program have seen a decline in opioid overdoses.  From 2017 to 2019, most SOS counties reported a decline of 14% to 24%.  One notable success was in the Western District of Pennsylvania, where the opioid overdose rates declined by nearly 45%.

“The Justice Department’s commitment to fighting the opioids epidemic is stronger than ever, and we are using every tool in our arsenal to disrupt the supply of these drugs on our streets,” said Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey A. Rosen.  “Operation SOS has had a significant positive impact on the communities where it is being employed. The Department will continue to build on these successes and work to stop the drug traffickers who so callously wreck lives.”

The 10 participating districts and some of their successes are listed below:

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