Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

August 20, 2013

Drug funds — Settlement will help Tazewell

Bluefield Daily Telegraph

— Tazewell County is one of two Southwest Virginia counties that will receive a portion of the $1.5 billion sum that Abbot Laboratories agreed to pay to satisfy a national Medicaid fraud settlement. Specifically, Tazewell and Smyth counties will receive $1.3 million each as part of the national fraud settlement. And these funds will be used to help bolster local law enforcement agencies.

The local funds comes from the $1.5 billion Abbott Laboratories agreed to pay to settle allegations that it promoted the drug Depakote for uses not approved by the Food and Drug Administration, according to U.S. Attorney Timothy Heaphy. The federal, state and local law enforcement agencies that participated in the investigation will share in $200 million in forfeited funds.

The Smyth and Tazewell prosecutors served as special assistant U.S. attorneys in the case, according to the Associated Press. As a result they will use their share of the money for law enforcement purposes. And that’s certainly good news for law enforcement officials in the two Southwest Virginia counties.

“We’re very blessed,” Tazewell County Commonwealth’s Attorney Dennis Lee said last week. “We’re hoping to use this settlement to do some good things for the community. We want to help our local law enforcement agencies, many of which are under economic duress like many other communities. Some officers need firearms, some need bulletproof vests and some need new vehicles. Our agencies and our task forces need our help.”

Lee also is hoping to use some of the money to conduct drug-abuse prevention work in different communities across Tazewell County to help those individuals who are suffering from the chains of drug addiction. Lee also is checking to see if the funding can be used to help with a local drug court.

“The funds are coming from the Department of the Treasury, so there are federal guidelines as to how we can use the funds,” Lee adds. “I know that both Roy Evans, the Commonwealth’s Attorney in Smyth County, and myself are thankful to U.S. Attorney Heaphy for the opportunity to participate in the settlement.”

Considering the serious prescription drug-abuse problem in Tazewell County, the funding announcement comes at a good time. By better equipping law-enforcement officers in the county, those men and women in the front line of this war against prescription drug abuse will be better prepared to respond to and fight this growing epidemic.