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Senator Launches Push To Pass “POWER Act” Grant Program To Help Local Law Enforcement Pay For High-Tech Chemical Detection Tool To Sniff Out Illegal Drugs Like Fentanyl & Reduce Drug-Testing Backlogs

According To Drug Enforcement Experts, It Only Takes A Grain Of Fentanyl To Cause A Deadly Reaction; Senator Says Congress Must Do Everything Possible To Keep Police Safe & Help With Efficiency Of Local Investigations

Schumer: Deploying New Tech Across Onondaga County Could Be A Game-Changer To Keep Police Officers Safe & Protect From Lethal Fentanyl OD’s 

Standing at the Dewitt Police Department in East Syracuse with law enforcement officials from across Onondaga County, N.Y., 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 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 and that the POWER Act will give law enforcement the tools they need to address it on the ground level.

“The opioid epidemic has ravaged communities throughout Onondaga County. It is not only ripping families apart it is also putting our law enforcement officials at risk by exposing them to illegal and fatal substances such as fentanyl,” said Senator Schumer. “And it is our responsibility to protect the men and women who bravely put themselves in harm’s way 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 that while Onondaga County has made significant strides against the opioid epidemic by reducing opioid related deaths, overdoses and fatalities continue to hit the area hard. Schumer explained that fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that is 50 to 100 times stronger than heroin, has quickly swept into Central New York in recent years, and is exacerbating the opioid epidemic which is already destroying families in Onondaga County. As of the first nine months of 2018, according to the Onondaga County Opioid Epidemic Data Report, there have been 274 opioid related emergency department visits in Onondaga County, of which 45 resulted in hospitalizations. Additionally, those same statistics from 2018 show there were 75 let into chemical dependency programs and 431 people were administered Naloxone. Also, since 2016, there have been more than 200 deaths from overdoses linked to heroin combined with fentanyl or fentanyl analogs, according to Onondaga County. Schumer said that this lethal combination of drugs is referred to as “Gray Death.”

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. In 2018, law enforcement officials seized 700 pounds of synthetic opioids. 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.

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. In the hands of our state and local law enforcement officers, these devices would enhance both officer safety and the efficiency of investigations, enabling our law enforcement professionals to better respond to the drug crisis in America.

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 Onondaga County 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.