Sen. Brown pushes legislation to keep fentanyl out of U.S.
SEE ALSO: Rcovering addicts speak at Mahoning County Ohio Can Change Now event
By Justin Wier
U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown stopped by the Mahoning Valley Law Enforcement Task Force for Overdose Awareness Day on Thursday to discuss legislation aimed at stopping fentanyl from getting into the country.
The Ohio Department of Health released statistics Wednesday stating that 4,050 people died of overdoses in the state last year – a 1,000-person increase over 2015 data.
“All these numbers are just terrifying,” Brown said.
Detective Lt. Jeff Solic, who leads the task force, added that without naloxone, those numbers could be significantly higher.
“One [death] is too many,” Solic said. “Four thousand is unacceptable.”
Many of the deaths are driven by the synthetic opioid fentanyl, which is 50 times stronger than heroin, experts say.
Brown, a Cleveland Democrat, introduced the INTERDICT Act, which would spend $15 million and provide Customs and Border Protection with additional high-tech screening equipment and lab resources to intercept shipments of fentanyl before they enter the country.
“We have the technology,” Brown said. “We just haven’t provided the funding to employ it effectively.”
U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, a Cincinnati-area Republican, also supports the legislation. Portman also introduced the STOP Act, which Brown supports. The STOP Act would improve tracking of shipments from overseas in an attempt to stop fentanyl from reaching the U.S.
Most of the fentanyl originates in China, Brown said.
Brown’s legislation is “common sense,” Solic said, comparing it to closing your window when it’s raining.
“If we have the ability to stop something before it hits the U.S., why would we not do that?” he asked.
Last year, the task force confiscated 4.5 kilograms of heroin and 13 grams of fentanyl. Just in the first six months of 2017, Solic said those numbers have tripled.
He added that lab reports from the state Bureau of Criminal Investigation are delayed six to seven months, and he expects those numbers to skyrocket when he receives test results.
People like Solic need access to protective equipment, Brown said, alluding to East Liverpool police officer Chris Green, who reportedly overdosed from brushing fentanyl off his uniform.
“We can’t ask people to test these substances without tools to do it safely and quickly,” Brown said.