Fitzpatrick, Tsongas Anti-Fentanyl Bill Passes Committee
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Bipartisan legislation authored by Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) and Congresswoman Niki Tsongas (D-MA) aimed at combating the opioid epidemic passed the Homeland Security Committee Thursday 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.
“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,” said Fitzpatrick. “The INTERDICT Act is bipartisan 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.”
“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,” said Tsongas. “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.”
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. Between 2014 and 2015, deaths involving synthetic opioids such as fentanyl rose 72 percent, amounting to 9,500 deaths. 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.
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 sufficient resources, personnel, and facilities — including scientists available during all operational hours — to interpret screening test results from the field.
- Authorizes — based on CBP guidance — the appropriation of $15 million for hundreds of new screening devices, laboratory equipment, facilities, and personnel for support during all operational hours.
The INTERDICT Act was recently included in the Bipartisan Heroin Task Force’s legislative agenda as well as mentioned in the President’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis’ interim report. Companion legislation was introduced in the Senate by Senators Edward J. Markey (D-MA), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV).
What They’re Saying About the INTERDICT Act:
- Bucks Co. District Attorney Matt Weintraub: “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 introduction 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, Council of Southeast Pennsylvania: “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.”