When Matthew Barden, Assistant Special Agent in Charge of the United States Drug Enforcement Administration’s Little Rock Office, speaks to audiences about the toll drug deaths take on communities, he speaks from experience. With a thirty-year career in law enforcement, twenty-six of which have been dedicated to battling drugs, Barden doesn’t mince words when communicating the devastation drugs cause to families. In a very direct but honest tone, Barden says “I started working on the front lines as a police officer and a DEA Task-Force member in Orlando, Florida in the 1990s battling the nation’s crack epidemic. In the 90s, drug related deaths were very violent and decimated families. Today, it’s more overdose deaths that are occurring and the rate is soaring. But - death is death and it’s heartbreaking.”
As a DEA - Special Agent and now the Assistant Special Agent in Charge of the DEA in Arkansas, Barden oversees the work of approximately 95 personnel as well as coordinates with other Federal, State and Local law enforcement officials. Barden’s passion for saving lives stems in large part from his own personal loss. He recalls “when I was just 19 years old and away in college, I lost my father in a tragic drowning accident. That day, I lost my world.” With that scarring event and the deep sense of loss, coupled with the support of his new wife, Barden set out on his own life’s commitment to try and spare others the pain of losing loved ones.
The DEA’s primary mission is that of law enforcement dealing with drug issues and for the most part hasn’t changed. But awareness campaigns such as Speak Up-Speak Out (of which Barden is a panel member) and other prevention programs are very important to the DEA in their efforts. The loss of life from drug overdose is the fastest rising cause of all the unintentional deaths, and Barden says “this is where communities can help out.” He added “DEA-Agents work on holidays, weekends and stay up all night to battle drug cartels and drug dealers but we need the help of communities with programs like the Drug Take-Back Initiative.” The Drug Enforcement Administration’s National Take-Back program is a way for communities to be involved at every level in prevention of unwanted or unused prescription drugs getting into the hands of children and others who are not the intended recipients. On Saturday,April 29, 2017, the DEA held its 13th Take-Back Initiative collecting 24,483 pounds of drugs to be safely disposed. The event was dedicated to the memory of William Christian Doerhoff. These are drugs the DEA won’t have to worry about any longer. Drop-off locations function year round and can be found by accessing ARtakeback.org.