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The Herald-Dispatch

HUNTINGTON - Marshall University has joined in partnership with Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the investigative arm of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) within the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), to leverage resources to combat the opioid epidemic.

U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., chairwoman of the Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee, announced Wednesday a finalized partnership in which Marshall will receive $4.25 million to develop and implement a tool to aid HSI in investigation, disrupting and dismantling criminal activity related to the opioid epidemic.

This partnership will enhance the ability to fight the opioid crisis and enlists the help of the Marshall digital forensics and information assurance program's students, faculty and facilities.

John Sammons, director of the digital forensics and information assurance program at Marshall, said the focus is on investigating transnational criminal activity, to include cyber crime and cyber-facilitated crime.

"The Marshall digital forensics and information assurance faculty, students and staff are honored to assist HSI with this critical mission," Sammons said. "We've been able to see firsthand the terrible impact this epidemic has had on our own community. We look forward to working with HSI to help counter the criminal aspects of this epidemic."

Discussions between the university and the department have been ongoing for several months, and earlier this year, Capito toured the Marshall University Forensic Science Center with DHS Acting Secretary Kevin McAleenan.

"As chair of the Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee, I've worked to combine the talents and abilities of these two respected entities, Marshall University and HSI," Capito said in a release. "This partnership in cybersecurity and forensics is a promising one for West Virginia as we continue working to fight the opioid epidemic, and I'm confident it will also benefit other states and communities across the country by improving our ability to monitor and interdict illicit activity on the internet. I'm proud to have helped make the connections within the department and provide funding for what I hope will be a long-term partnership between Marshall and HSI."

"Marshall University continues to work diligently to address all aspects of the opioid epidemic here at home and across the United States," said Jerome Gilbert, president of Marshall University, in a release. "This new award allows the university to develop and deploy a mechanism that will aid our federal agencies in fighting criminal activity associated with the epidemic. I'm incredibly proud of our faculty-scientists and staff members involved in this project."

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