COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - Attorney General Jeff Sessions says the Justice Department will dispatch 12 federal prosecutors to cities ravaged by addiction.

The prosecutors will focus exclusively on investigating health care fraud and opioid scams that are fueling the nation's drug abuse epidemic.

Sessions unveiled the pilot program during a Wednesday speech in hard-hit Ohio, where eight people a day die of accidental overdoses.

Sessions is calling the group of prosecutors the "opioid fraud and abuse detection unit."

The attorney general says prosecutors will rely on data in the efforts to root out pill mills and find health care providers who illegally prescribe or distribute narcotics.

More than 52,000 Americans died of overdoses in 2015 - a record - and experts believe the numbers have continued to rise.