Anti-opioid effort to launch

By: Annick Joseph - Staff writer

LUMBERTON — An initiative to combat violence, drug crimes and the rapidly growing opioid crisis in Eastern North Carolina will be announced today by the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

A news conference about the Take Back North Carolina initiative will take place at 3 p.m. in the Fayetteville City Council Chambers, located at 433 Hay St. It will focus on Robeson, Cumberland and Sampson counties, said Don Connelly, a U.S. Department of Justice spokesman. The event is open only to credentialed members of the news media, law enforcement personnel and county officials.

The initiative will bring the full weight and resources of the federal court system to the fight against crime in those counties in partnership with district attorney’s offices and federal, state and local law enforcement, Connelly said.

Officials will discuss how local, state and federal law enforcement can work together to aggressively stamp out the high rate of violence, drug crimes, and the growing illicit narcotics trade in the region.

The best way to combat these issues is focus on programs that offer education and treatment available to offenders, not with prosecution alone, said Frank Bradsher, deputy chief of the Justice Department’s Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces Section.

“There has to be treatment and there has to be education,” Bradsher said. “There is not one group that is not affected. In every way it (narcotic addiction) is nondiscriminating. It’s so diverse right now.”

The initiative will target everyone involved with the purchase and sales of illicit pills, on the street or in doctor offices, Bradsher said.

Overdoses, fueled by opioids, are the leading cause of death for Americans under 50 years old, killing roughly 64,000 people in 2017, more than guns or car accidents, he said.

Assistant U.S. District Attorney Lawrence Cameron prosecuted the case of the Fayetteville doctor, who operated an office in Pembroke, found guilty April 17 for fraudulently writing prescription narcotics.

Dr. Donovan Dave Dixon, 51, was convicted for conspiracy to unlawfully distribute Oxycodone and 20 counts of unlawful distribution of Oxycodone outside the scope of professional practice and not for a legitimate medical purpose, Connelly said in a statement released the day Dixon was convicted.

A Robeson County dealer testified in federal court that he supplied Dixon with 10 to 20 names at one time and paid the doctor $200 per prescription, Cameron said. Dixon voluntarily relinquished his medical license before his trial.

“That’s a substantial amount of money,” Cameron said. “It is a national epidemic, causing so much devastation. So many are becoming addicted. Dealers are taking advantage of this.”

One of Dixon’s prescription shoppers became addicted and began filling prescriptions using the names of his immediate family, according to Cameron.

“He wasn’t chasing the high anymore. He was trying to prevent withdrawal symptoms,” he said. “He filled 101 prescriptions, some under the names of family members.”

Five press conferences already have taken place announcing the multi-agency initiative that officially launched six weeks ago.

“We have briefed all 44 counties by meetings and conference calls,” Connelly said Wednesday. “We plan on three more press conferences as of tomorrow.”

Raleigh, New Bern and Wilmington will be host cities for the final three press conferences.


Annick Joseph

Staff writer

Overdoses, fueled by opioids, are the leading cause of death for Americans under 50 years old — killing roughly 64,000 people last year, more than guns or car accidents, said Frank Bradsher Deputy Chief Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force.

Reach Annick Joseph by calling 910-416-5165 or via email at [email protected] or Facebook Annick MultiMedia Journalist.

Reach Annick Joseph by calling 910-416-5165 or via email at [email protected] or Facebook Annick MultiMedia Journalist.