Brown bill to stem fentanyl import

By Frank Lewis - [email protected]

In Scioto County and maybe in the entire state of Ohio, no one person is more in the center of the battle against illicit drugs than Lisa Roberts, RN, of the Portsmouth City Health Department. She has been in demand in the state’s capitol as well as the nation’s capitol, and in a recent exclusive interview with the Daily Times, she talked about the dreaded drug fentanyl making inroads into Scioto County and the enormous amount of overdoses and overdose deaths related to it’s arrival.

“I was in Washington DC earlier this month and attended a meeting with the Drug Enforcement Administration on fentanyl and these analog drugs coming from China. They showed a map depicting the spread of these labs across China. The DEA Director was actually in China at that time and returned with a commitment from China officials to ban chemical production of these deadly compounds,” Roberts told the Times. “But the illegal drug trade is very adaptable, and once there is a crackdown it just shifts and adapts. So these Senators are smart to seek policies in other countries lest the market just relocate to some other country.”

Rick Minerd, chief deputy from the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office, also sees the seriousness of fentanyl crossing into the U.S.

“Illicit drug manufactures abroad continue to find even more dangerous ways to exploit Americans with substance abuse disorders,” Minerd said. “Law enforcement officials are desperately searching for tools to respond to the unprecedented threat of rogue distributors, in places like China and Mexico, from conveying deadly substances such as Fentanyl and Carfentanil onto the streets of U.S. neighborhoods.”

U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) has outlined his bipartisan legislation to help U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) keep the deadly synthetic opioid, fentanyl, out of the country. Brown’s bill, the INTERDICT Act, would provide CBP with additional hi-tech screening equipment and lab resources to detect fentanyl before it enters the U.S. According to a report from the Ohio Department of Health, fentanyl-related overdose deaths in Ohio more than doubled from 503 in 2014 to 1,155 in 2015.

“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,” said Brown. “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 hi-tech screening works and we need to give CBP agents the tools they need to keep fentanyl from entering the U.S.”

Brown’s bill is co-sponsored by Sens. Marco Rubio (R-FL), Ed Markey (D-MA), and Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV). The Senators developed the legislation in consultation with CBP based on their guidance about the best way to way to cut down on fentanyl entering the country.

At some port locations along the southern border, CBP is successfully using hi-tech chemical screening devices to safely detect fentanyl entering the U.S. through mail or ports of entry. But the agency does not have enough screening equipment to cover all ports of entry nor enough scientists and lab support to interpret the results.

Brown’s bill, co-sponsored by Sens. Marco Rubio (R-FL), Ed Markey (D-MA), and Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), would authorize $15 million for hundreds of new screening devices, laboratory equipment, facilities, and personnel for 24/7 lab support. The money will be used to provide more portable chemical screening devices at ports of entry and mail and express consignment facilities and additional fixed chemical screening devices available in CBP laboratories. It would also provide CBP with sufficient resources, personnel, and facilities — including scientists available during all operational hours — to interpret screening test results from the field. The lab support will not only stop more fentanyl from coming into the U.S., it will also protect more agents in the field from exposure to dangerous substances.

By Frank Lewis

[email protected]

Reach Frank Lewis at 740-353-3101, ext. 1928, or on Twitter @franklewis.

Reach Frank Lewis at 740-353-3101, ext. 1928, or on Twitter @franklewis.