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 House Tuesday by a vote of 412-3 and now heads to the Senate where companion legislation awaits. This is Fitzpatrick’s third bill to pass the House; the Joint Counterterrorism Awareness Workshop Series Act of 2017 and the DHS Multiyear Acquisition Strategy Act passed earlier this year.
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 am grateful for the leadership of Rep. Tsongas and the support of the House to pass this critical measure in a bipartisan fashion. I urge the Senate to act quickly and save lives.”
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 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 in the Senate was introduced 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.”
- 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. I am pleased that the agenda of the Bipartisan Heroin Task Force is advancing and urge the Senate to take up this commonsense legislation that will help keep our country safe.”
- 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.”