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 Senate Thursday night and now heads to the White House to be signed into law. The measure passed the House in October by a vote of 412-3. Companion Senate legislation was introduced by Senators Edward J. Markey (D-MA), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV).
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. In data released this week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that more than 42,000 Americans died from an opioid overdose in 2016, with nearly half being directly attributed to 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 am pleased that my colleagues on both sides of the aisle, first in the House and now the Senate, have voted to advance this important measure. I urge the president to quickly sign my INTERDICT Act into law so we can keep this poison off our streets.”
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 Senate’s passage of the legislation comes shortly after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a report showing "Life expectancy declined in the U.S. for the second consecutive year in 2016" from 78.7 years to 78.6 years. This drop can be partially attributed to the rise in fatal drug overdoses which rose to 63,000 in 2016 – two-thirds of those deaths of people between 25 and 54 years old. Pennsylvania has seen a 20.1% jump in drug overdose rates since 2014-2015.
The INTERDICT Act was 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.
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.”
- Chief Frederick Ryan, Police Assisted Addiction Recovery Initiative (PAARI) Board of Directors Co-Chair: “Now is the time to act. This holiday season too many seats at too many tables are empty due to the unrelenting flow of fentanyl into the United States. We must give our law enforcement personnel the tools necessary to stop this flow. We can do that, in part, by getting the INTERDICT Act to the President’s desk this year. That is why PAARI strongly supports this important legislation which will give U.S. Customs and Border Protection the additional resources it needs to fight the flow of fentanyl and other deadly drugs into the United States.”
- Rep. Nikki Tsongas (D-MA) – original sponsor: “Whenever I meet with local public safety officials, they explain the urgent need for resources and support to combat drugs like fentanyl. The INTERDICT Act responds to the needs of these first responders and recognizes that the 21st century threat of synthetic opioids requires the latest tools to stop them. Providing CBP with more modern equipment and resources will improve their ability to keep these harmful substances out of our country. This bill is a powerful tool for eliminating synthetic opioids, like fentanyl, from the equation. I thank Rep. Fitzpatrick for his partnership and I look forward to continuing our work together to ensure this important bill is signed into law.”
- Rep. Tom MacArthur (R-NJ) – Bipartisan Heroin Task Force Co-Chair: “Across the United States, synthetic opioids are flowing into our neighborhoods and destroying the lives of so many loved ones. Customs and Border Protection is our first line of defense in detecting and intercepting these illicit substances from getting into our county. This bipartisan bill ensures they have the resources needed to protect our streets from powerful drugs like fentanyl and other synthetic opioids. I’m grateful members of the Bipartisan Heroin Task Force and other Representatives from both parties were able to work together and pass this critical legislation.”
- Rep. Annie Kuster (D-NH) – Bipartisan Heroin Task Force Co-Chair: “The opioid epidemic that is devastating communities around New Hampshire and across the country requires a comprehensive response that addresses all aspects of this crisis. The INTERDICT Act will help US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) reduce the flow of fentanyl and synthetic opioids from outside the country by giving CBP the necessary tools to detect and intercept these dangerous substances.”
- Rep. Donald Norcross (D-NJ) – Bipartisan Heroin Task Force Vice Chair “The disease of addiction is a national emergency and we must act fast, remove barriers and help those suffering. Those at the forefront of this fight need resources to protect our communities from powerful synthetic opioids and I am glad this bill passed the House to help keep our neighborhoods safe. This one piece of legislation is a step in the right direction, but we need to do more. We need Congress and the Administration to advance the whole suite of bills supported by our bipartisan task force.”