03.18.19

AS THE OPIOID CRISIS CONTINUES TO PLAGUE THE CAPITAL REGION, WITH OVER 224 OPIOID DEATHS SINCE 2016, SCHUMER LAUNCHES PUSH FOR CUTTING-EDGE TECHNOLOGY TO AID POLICE DEPARTMENTS IN QUICKLY & EFFECTIVELY IDENTIFYING LETHAL DRUGS LIKE FENTANYL; SENATOR SAYS CONGRESS SHOULD IMMEDIATELY PASS NEW BIPARTISAN BILL TO HELP LOCAL PD’S PAY FOR HIGH-TECH TOOL

Senator Launches Push To Pass “POWER Act” Which Creates A New Grant Program To Help Local Police Pay For High-Tech Detection Tool To Sniff Out Illegal Drugs Like Fentanyl 

According To Drug Enforcement Experts, It Only Takes A Small Amount Of Fentanyl To Cause A Deadly Reaction; Senator Says Congress Must Do Everything Possible To Keep The Public & Police Safe  

Schumer: Deploying New Tech Across Capital Region Would Be A Game-Changer To Keeping Police Officers Safe & Protect From Lethal Fentanyl ODs

Standing at the Albany County Courthouse, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today renewed his push to pass the Providing Officers with Electronic Resources (POWER) Act. According to Schumer, the bipartisan bill, set to be reintroduced by Senators Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Rob Portman (R-OH), creates a new grant program through the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) that will help state and local law enforcement secure new high-tech, portable screening devices to quickly, effectively, and safely identify dangerous drugs like fentanyl in the field. Schumer explained that the opioid crisis requires an all-hands-on-deck and an all-of-the-above approach, especially in Albany County, which holds a High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) designation and experienced over 80 opioid overdose deaths since 2016. Senator Schumer detailed how the POWER Act will give law enforcement the tools they need to address this deadly drug on the ground level.

“It’s no secret that the opioid epidemic has ravaged communities in the Capital Region. As opioid related deaths continue to rise in Albany County and across the region, it’s clearer than ever that the opioid epidemic not only rips families apart, it also puts our law enforcement officials at risk by exposing them to illegal and fatal substances such as fentanyl,” said Senator Schumer. “And it’s up to us to do everything within our power, on a federal level, to protect the men and women who bravely put themselves in harm’s way every single day in order to protect us and to ensure the public safety of our communities by providing them with the proper resources to do their job. This bill and these screening devices will help keep law enforcement safe and allow them to work more efficiently while on the front lines fighting the opioid epidemic ravaging our communities.” 

Schumer said the opioid epidemic has plagued the Capital Region in recent years. He explained that fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that is 50 to 100 times stronger than heroin, has quickly swept into Albany and the surrounding areas, exacerbating the opioid epidemic that is already devastating families in the Capital Region. According to the New York State Department of Health, between 2016 and June of 2018, Albany County experienced 81 opioid overdose deaths and 3,375 admissions to chemical dependency programs. Additionally, in the same timeframe, Rensselaer County experienced 37 opioid overdose deaths and 1,851 admissions into chemical dependency programs. Saratoga County experienced 33 opioid overdose deaths and 1,445 admissions into chemical dependency programs, and Schenectady County experienced 73 opioid overdose deaths and 2,042 admissions into chemical dependency programs. Schumer explained that these overdoses are from both heroin, and heroin combined with fentanyl or fentanyl analogs, a lethal combination of drugs referred to as “Gray Death.”

All Opioid Overdose Deaths

 

2016

2017

2018*

Total

Albany

28

39

14

81

Rensselaer

13

18

6

37

Saratoga

13

14

6

33

Schenectady

29

31

13

73

Total

83

102

39

224

*Denotes from January to June

Chemical Dependency Program Admissions

 

2016

2017

2018*

Total

Albany

1199

1364

812

3375

Rensselaer

681

730

447

1858

Saratoga

538

573

334

1445

Schenectady

750

818

474

2042

Total

3168

3485

2067

8720

*Denotes from January to June

 

Naloxone Administrations – EMS and Law Enforcement

 

2016

2017

2018*

Total

Albany

223

307

243

773

Rensselaer

181

191

142

514

Saratoga

173

175

98

446

Schenectady

245

240

132

617

Total

822

913

615

2350

*Denotes from January to June

 

Opioid Overdose ER Visits

 

2016

2017

2018*

Total

Albany

115

123

66

304

Rensselaer

93

78

36

207

Saratoga

112

98

26

236

Schenectady

120

121

15

256

Total

440

420

143

1003

*Denotes from January to June

Although pharmaceutical fentanyl can be misused, most of the fentanyl being sold on the street is illicitly manufactured. While distributors in China are the principal source of the precursor chemicals used to manufacture the drug, as well as a source for finished-product illicit fentanyl and fentanyl analogs, Mexico is the primary source of illicit fentanyl smuggled into the United States. Fentanyl suppliers then use methods such as mislabeling shipments or concealing the drug inside legitimate goods in order to avoid law enforcement detection. Through July of 2018, U.S. Border Patrol seized nearly 340 pounds of fentanyl, almost double the 181 pounds of fentanyl that was seized in all of 2017. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that between June 2017 and June 2018, a record 31,500 people in the United States died from synthetic opioid overdoses, excluding methadone. The labs that make these synthetic opioids take advantage of law enforcement officials’ limited capabilities to detect fentanyl. Schumer added the drug is extremely lucrative for dealers and cartels, who can sell $3,000 to $5,000 in fentanyl purchased from a Chinese drug laboratory for up to $1.5 million on the street. 

Schumer was joined by Albany County Sheriff Craig Apple; Chief Eric Hawkins, Albany Police Department; Albany County Executive Daniel McCoy and Mayor Kathy Sheehan.

To address these challenges, Senator Schumer will be joining Senators Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Rob Portman (R-OH), Cory Gardner (R-CO), and Thom Tillis (R-NC) to reintroduce the bipartisan POWER ACT to ensure that law enforcement agencies have the tools to identify illicit drugs and prevent them from coming across the border. Schumer, who has a history of working to get law enforcement the resources and equipment necessary to keep our communities safe, announced his support for the bi-partisan legislation.

Specifically, the Schumer backed POWER Act would authorize $20 million to the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) to create a new grant program to help state and local law enforcement organizations secure high-tech, portable screening devices – also known as interdiction devices -  in order to better detect illicit fentanyl and protect field officers from exposure. The devices can cost anywhere from $30,000 to $80,000 per unit, which makes them cost-prohibitive for local law enforcement agencies relying on already tight municipal budgets.

Federal law enforcement officials have already deployed this drug scanning equipment to screen contraband smuggled into the United States at the border or through the mail. For example, when border officials encounter a suspicious substance, it can be difficult to detect the source of the illicit material and whether it poses a hazard to them. In the face of this challenge, federal law enforcement agencies at U.S. ports of entry have had success with screening and determining illicit drugs, like fentanyl, with the help of these high-tech, handheld chemical screening devices. The POWER Act ensures that local law enforcement in communities in the Capital Region and beyond can also afford to obtain this same technology and portable chemical screening devices, in order to better interpret tests gathered from the field, and minimize agent’s exposure to dangerous substances.

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