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Additionally, Schumer Condemns New White House Plans To Gut Vital Drug Prevention Programs That Have Worked For NY & Saved Lives; Without Them, Opioid Crisis Will More Easily Take Hold

Schumer: We Must Choke Off The Source Of Fentanyl Before Hundreds More Die

U.S. Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer today announced his support for a new, bipartisan plan that would help cutoff the flow of illicit fentanyl from China, Mexico, and other countries into New York and across the United States.

Schumer also publicly decried a just-revealed White House plan to gut the Office of National Drug Control Policy’s (ONDCP) budget by 95 percent.

“President Trump’s nonsensical proposal to gut the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) is the most destructive contribution he’s made yet to the fight against the opioid and heroin epidemic, and another clear sign he has no intention of keeping the promises he’s made to the American people,” said U.S. Senator Charles Schumer. “While candidate Trump pledged to ‘take care’ of Americans struggling with addiction and spend the money to succeed, his proposal to eliminate funding for programs, such as High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) and Drug-Free Communities -- which are instrumental in aiding local enforcement drug trafficking in many communities in New York, at the southern border and elsewhere -- would effectively kick Americans seeking treatment to the curb and make our communities less safe.”

Schumer continued, “Senate Democrats will never vote to defund these vital programs, and I know there are many colleagues across the aisle who feel likewise, so I urge the President and Republicans in Congress to reject this proposal immediately.”

Just recently, it was reported that the White House plans to propose a new budget proposal to cut the Office of National Drug Control Policy’s (ONDCP) budget by 95 percent. In FY2017 the office received $388 million and under the Trump Administration’s proposal the office would receive only $24 million in FY2018. The ONDCP, which was authorized in 1988 with bipartisan support, currently directs the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTA) program, the National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign, the Drug Free Communities Program, anti-doping activities and the World Anti-Doping Agency). The proposed budget plan would also completely zero out the Drug-Free Communities and HIDTA programs, which provide substantial support to treatment, prevention and enforcement efforts on the ground. 

‎In addition, with fentanyl continuing its sprint onto the streets of New York City, Schumer also launched a major push for the “International Narcotics Trafficking Emergency Response by Detecting Incoming Contraband with Technology Act,” also known as the INTERDICT Act. Schumer noted that this bill is even more important now, following news that the Trump Administration plans to nearly eliminate the Office of National Drug Control Policy, an effort that Schumer says is nonsensical.

The Schumer-backed INTERDICT bill, introduced by Senator Markey (MA), would give U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) the hi-tech tools and resources needed to improve detection capabilities and increase the seizure of illicit fentanyl shipped to the U.S. from abroad through mail and express consignment carriers. Schumer said he would work with his colleagues to take action on this issue that is destroying families in New York and the rest of the country, and do everything in his power to prevent Trump’s proposal to cut funds from the Office of National Drug Control Policy.

“These deadly substances are being delivered to our homes, being sold on our streets, and destroying our families. We know how they get here and where they come from, now we need to give CBP the resources to stop this flood and help save lives,” said Senator Schumer. “The INTERDICT Act will provide those on the frontlines with hi-tech tools that can root out fentanyl and other synthetic opioids that are leading to tragic deaths here on Staten Island and throughout New York. The devastation these drugs cause is not a partisan issue, and I’ll be fighting hard to get my colleagues on board to get this bill through the Senate.”

Schumer explained that fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that is 50 to 100 times stronger than heroin, has quickly swept into New York City and is wreaking havoc and destroying families. In 2015, 753 people died of an opioid overdose and, as of April, that number was projected to hit 1075 for 2016 year. The New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene says that fentanyl is driving overdose death increases in New York City and that it is increasingly present in deaths from drug overdoses. Schumer said that the INTERDICT Act would help choke off the source of fentanyl.

According to Staten Island DA McMahon’s office, in January, police charged five individuals for allegedly dealing drugs on Staten Island, including a school paraprofessional who was selling fentanyl on school grounds. The supply chain ended in neighborhoods including Rossville, Richmondtown, Tottenville, Great Kills and Rosebank. According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office (EDNY), on February 22nd, nine individuals were charged with conspiring to distribute heroin and/or oxycodone in Staten Island. And in March, thirty-four people in Brooklyn were charged with distributing drugs, including fentanyl. The drugs were sold throughout the five boroughs. More than 103 pounds of heroin and fentanyl, worth $22 million, were seized.‎

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 for illicit fentanyl smuggled into the United States. Fentanyl suppliers then use methods to mislabel shipments or conceal them inside legitimate goods in order to avoid CBP detection. In 2016, CBP seized nearly 200 pounds of fentanyl and other synthetic opioids, primarily from along the southwest border. This is a 25-fold increase over seizures in 2015. Between 2014 and 2015, deaths involving synthetic opioids, which include fentanyl, increased by 72 percent, taking more than 9,500 lives. The labs that make these synthetic opioids and take advantage of CBP’s limited capabilities to screen international packages, know that fentanyl is extremely lucrative for dealers and cartels, who can sell $3000 to $5000 in fentanyl purchased from a Chinese drug laboratory for up to $1.5 million on the street. 

To address these challenges, Senators Edward Markey (D-MA), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) introduced the INTERDICT Act in March of 2017 in order to ensure CBP has tools to identify illicit drugs and prevent them from coming across the border. Schumer, who has a history of working to get CBP resources and equipment necessary to keeping our ports and borders safe, announced his support for the bi-partisan legislation.

Specifically, the INTERDICT Act:

  •  Ensures that CBP will have additional portable chemical screening devices available at ports of entry and mail and express consignment facilities, and additional fixed chemical screening devices available in CBP laboratories
  • Provides CBP with sufficient resources, personnel, and facilities – including scientists available during all operational hours – to interpret screening test results from the field.  
  •  Authorizes – based on CBP guidance – the appropriation of $15 million for hundreds of new screening devices, laboratory equipment, facilities, and personnel for support during all operational hours.

Schumer’s push comes as law enforcement has begun warning about new and more-deadly potent varieties of fentanyl being found in the United States, shipped here from overseas manufacturers. Specifically, law enforcement is also very concerned about the emergence of “3-methylfentanyl” as well as “Carfentanil,” which is one of the strongest opioids in the fentanyl class of drugs. Carfentanil, which is an opioid used to tranquilize elephants, is 100 times more potent than fentanyl and has been found in Ohio, Florida, Pennsylvania, New York, and New England. 

Schumer noted that with New York’s proximity to the international border with Canada, it’s even more critical to strengthen our border screening ability.  Schumer explained CBP, which is on the front lines of the U.S. effort to stop fentanyl from crossing into our borders from abroad, requires these additional resources to keep ahead of fentanyl manufacturers looking to ship drugs into the United States. CBP has a number of tools it uses to screen contraband smuggled into the United States at the border or through the mail. When it encounters a suspicious substance, it can be difficult to detect the source of the illicit material and whether it poses a hazard to them. In order to confront this challenge, CBP has had success with screening and determining illicit drugs, like fentanyl, with the help of high-tech, handheld chemical screening devices. The INTERDICT Act ensures that CBP has access to additional portable chemical screening devices and extra personnel in their laboratories, in order to better interpret tests gathered from the field, and minimize agent’s exposure to dangerous substances.

Schumer has long supported efforts to combat the heroin-opioid epidemic. In the recent omnibus, negotiated by Schumer, $3.8 billion has been provided to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, a $35 million increase from last year, for. In the last two fiscal years, New York received more than $111 million from SAMHSA block grants. The agreement also provides funding that helps law enforcement combat the epidemic. For instance, the agreement provides a $4 million increase to the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) Program, which brings the entire pot to $254 million; $12.5 million for the DEA to establish four new heroin enforcement teams; $10 million for competitive grants to statewide law enforcement agencies in States with high rates of primary treatment admissions for heroin and other opioids; and $35 million for regional information sharing activities which support the efforts of thousands of criminal justice agencies to combat drug trafficking organizations and other criminal activity.

Moreover, the agreement funds nearly $450 million in efforts through several departments and agencies specifically targeted to attack the opioid/heroin crisis: $160.5 million from the Department of Justice for interdiction, enforcement and treatment programs;$112 million for the Centers for Disease Control for preventing prescription drug overdoses;$56 million from SAMHSA for grants to expand access to drug treatment services for those with a dependence on prescription opioids or heroin; $20 million for programs newly authorized under the bipartisan Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act; $50 million to Community Health Centers for services to prevent and treat addiction in underserved areas throughout New York and the nation; and $50 million to the Department of Veterans Affairs for additional funding for treatment and prevention. There are 65 CHCs in New York, serving nearly 2 million patients in 2015 and employing more than 15,000 New Yorkers.