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Tsongas, Fitzpatrick Bipartisan Anti-Fentanyl Bill Passes Committee

Sep 20, 2017 05:25AM ● By Theresa Gilman

(Editor’s Note: this information and links were published on Congresswoman Niki Tsongas’ website.)

WASHINGTON – Bipartisan legislation authored by Congresswoman Niki Tsongas (D-MA) and Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) aimed at combating the opioid epidemic unanimously passed the House Committee on Homeland Security, setting the table for consideration on the House floor. The International Narcotics Trafficking Emergency Response by Detecting Incoming Contraband with Technology (INTERDICT) Act [H.R. 2142] provides U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) the latest in chemical screening devices and scientific support to detect and intercept fentanyl and other synthetic opioids.

Rep. Tsongas said: “Like much of the nation, every corner of Massachusetts has been hit hard by the opioid epidemic and people across my District – families, state and local officials and those on the front lines of law enforcement and public health – agree we need a comprehensive, cooperative, resourceful effort to effectively combat this crisis. This bill is key to that mission, and will be a powerful tool for eliminating synthetic opioids, like fentanyl, from the equation. Providing CBP with more modern equipment and resources will improve their ability to keep these harmful substances out of our country. I thank Rep. Fitzpatrick for his partnership and I commend our colleagues on the Homeland Security Committee for recognizing the severity of the situation and supporting a bill that can make a difference.”

Rep. Fitzpatrick said: “As communities across my district and across our nation continue to deal with the crisis of opioid abuse and addiction it’s hard to imagine a synthetic drug up to 50 times stronger than heroin and 100 times stronger than morphine. The INTERDICT Act isbipartisan legislation that provides U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) access to the latest in chemical screening devices and scientific support to detect and intercept synthetic opioids before they can cause more harm. I urge my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to support and advancing this important measure.”

The INTERDICT Act was introduced in the Senate on a bipartisan basis by Senators Edward J. Markey (D-MA), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV).

Specifically, the INTERDICT Act:

  • Ensures that CBP will have additional portable chemical screening devices available at ports of entry and mail and express consignment facilities, and additional fixed chemical screening devices available in CBP laboratories.
  • Provides CBP with resources, personnel, and facilities — including scientists available during all operational hours — to interpret screening test results from the field. 
  • Authorizes the appropriation of $9 million for new screening devices, laboratory equipment, facilities, and personnel for support during all operational hours.

Fentanyl is a deadly synthetic opioid that can be up to 50 times stronger than heroin and 100 times stronger than morphine. Although pharmaceutical fentanyl can be misused, most fentanyl deaths are linked to illicitly manufactured fentanyl and illicit versions of chemically similar compounds known as fentanyl analogs. In 2016, fentanyl was present in a staggering 69 percent of Massachusetts opioid-related deaths, resulting in 1,400 fentanyl-related deaths in the Commonwealth. 

The primary source of fentanyl is outside of the United States, in Mexico or China. The drug is smuggled in across the U.S. border or delivered via mail or express consignment couriers. Fentanyl can also be ordered online. Because of its potency, fentanyl typically comes in small amounts, making it more difficult for authorities to detect.  

In July, Congresswoman Tsongas and Senator Markey penned an OpEd for the Boston Herald regarding the importance of the INTERDICT ACT, which can be found here.

In July, the Lowell Sun newspaper wrote, “The INTERDICT Act should be a no-brainer. Congress should act quickly to send this legislation to President Donald Trump for his signature.”

A copy of the International Narcotics Trafficking Emergency Response by Detecting Incoming Contraband with Technology (INTERDICT) Act can be found HERE.

Support for the INTERDICT Act
The INTERDICT Act has been endorsed by numerous public safety experts and law enforcement officials, including:

  • Marian Ryan, District Attorney of Middlesex County, Massachusetts said:"Increasingly, fentanyl is playing a role in overdose deaths across the state. Even experienced users purchasing heroin have no way of knowing if or how much fentanyl may have been added because fentanyl, although more deadly even in small amounts, is not visually distinguishable from heroin. The INTERDICT Act will provide for critical tools to be used by CBP to target fentanyl distribution operations which are profiting from those struggling with addiction.”
  • Kevin Coppinger, Sheriff of Essex County, Massachusetts said: "Opioids and particularly fentanyl are destroying lives and families. Congresswoman Tsongas’ legislation will provide concrete tools in fighting this deadly epidemic.”
  • Lowell, Massachusetts Chief of Police William Taylor said:"I fully support the INTERDICT Act introduced by Congresswoman Tsongas and Congressman Fitzpatrick. Illicit fentanyl trafficking poses an extremely grave threat to the City of Lowell. Each day 2-3 people overdose from opioids in Lowell and to date more than 120 have died since January of 2015. The introduction of illicit fentanyl has been the game changer and caused this devastation."
  • Fitchburg, Massachusetts Chief of Police Ernest Martineau said:“The opioid epidemic that faces the Commonwealth of Massachusetts continues to impact every community including the City of Fitchburg. On the front lines of small town America we are seeing the devastation that these illicit drugs are doing to our communities. This bill will give CBP the tools necessary to bring the fight to the point of entry, and for that I fully support this endeavor.”
  • Bucks County, Pennsylvania District Attorney Matt Weintraub said:“Heroin and other opiates are killing our citizens. When misused or abused, fentanyl is much deadlier than heroin. We must take an all-out approach in stemming the tide of illegal drugs available for abuse.  Law enforcement will continue to play a critical role in this battle against the drug scourge and the criminals who peddle this poison.  We are grateful to Representatives Fitzpatrick and Tsongas for the passage of the INTERDICT Act. I am personally aware of Representative Fitzpatrick’s tireless commitment to his citizens and to empowering law enforcement in its fight against the drug scourge. INTERDICT will give law enforcement many additional tools and resources it needs to detect this deadly drug before traffickers can put it into the stream of commerce.  Just as sure as heroin and fentanyl kill; the INTERDICT Act will save lives.”
  • Beverly Haberle, executive director of the Council of Southeast Pennsylvania, an affiliate of the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence said: “Addiction is a complicated problem which requires multi-pronged approaches. The introduction of fentanyl increases the death rate associated with opioid overdose. This bill strengthens one important prong in effectively intervening with this devastating problem that affects us all.”
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