The opioid addiction epidemic takes far too many lives and destroys too many families across Ohio, and one of the biggest culprits of the deadly overdoses on the rise in our state is the drug fentanyl.
This deadly synthetic opioid is fifty times stronger than heroin, and is often trafficked in from China through Mexico. Overdoses from fentanyl have jumped to an average of one each day over the past month.
This is staggering, and it’s heartbreaking – those are families torn apart; families who will never see their loved ones again.
Congress has taken steps to help improve access to treatment and provide support for community efforts to fight this epidemic. And – thanks to the Affordable Care Act and Medicaid expansion – hundreds of thousands of Ohioans who have not had access to treatment before are now receiving medication-assisted treatment to help them fight their addiction.
But in addition to funding treatment and protecting Medicaid coverage, we must do more to prevent the flow of this deadly illegal drug into the country and into our Ohio communities.
That’s why I joined Senator Ed Markey to introduce the bipartisan INTERDICT Act with Senators Rubio and Capito.
It will provide more resources directly to Customs and Border Protection (CBP), so that agents can scan shipments for fentanyl and other dangerous synthetic substances at the border, and stop these drugs from making it into our neighborhoods.
We developed this legislation in consultation with CBP, whose agents have had success detecting these drugs with high-tech chemical screening devices. But the agency does not have enough screening equipment to cover all ports of entry or enough scientists or lab support to interpret the results. And they don’t have enough of the protective equipment they need to keep our agents safe while they screen for this deadly material.
Our bill would authorize funding for new screening devices, lab equipment, facilities and personnel for 24-7 lab support. It gives the agency more of the tools we already know are working.
Fentanyl has taken far too many lives across Ohio, and this is one concrete step we can take, right now, to help stop it from entering our communities and destroying any more Ohio families.
It’s not enough to treat overdoses as they happen – we must do more to stem the tide of deadly synthetic opioids flooding the country. We know high-tech screening works, and we need to give CBP agents the tools they need to keep fentanyl from entering the U.S.
Senator Sherrod Brown represents Ohio in the Senate and is a guest columnist.