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Schumer: Bipartisan Bill Will Provide Feds With More Resources: Including Additional Border Agents And Scientists, Drug Labs, Training & New Portable Devices To Detect & Intercept Illicit Fentanyl And Other Synthetic Opioids  

Senator Says Schenectady And The Capital Region Has Experienced An Explosion Of Drug Use Including Fentanyl-Laced Heroin & Meth, As Well As Drug-Related Crime  

Schumer: Feds Need More Resources To Shutdown ?Stream Of Fentanyl From Ever Reaching Schenectady 

Speaking in Schenectady alongside local law enforcement officials and treatment providers, Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer today announced his support for bipartisan legislation that would help cutoff the flow of illicit fentanyl from China, Mexico, and other countries into Upstate New York and across the United States. With fentanyl increasingly making its way onto the streets of Capital Region cities including Schenectady, Schumer launched a major effort to push the International Narcotics Trafficking Emergency Response by Detecting Incoming Contraband with Technology Act also known as the INTERDICT Act and provide additional resources to confront the epidemic. The legislation, 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.

“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 in the Capital Region 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 the Capital Region and is wreaking havoc and destroying families. The most recent data available reveals that fentanyl-related deaths in Schenectady County climbed from zero in 2014 to 13 in 2016. And with drug overdose deaths exceeding car crashes as the number one cause of injury death, Schumer said it is clear that the federal government must take every possible step to quell the opioid epidemic.

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 bipartisan 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 pointed out that, while abuse of alcohol and cocaine has steadily fallen, heroin and opiate abuse are on the rise. He said that the single most significant increase over the last ten years has been in the abuse of Heroin and other opiate medications. The number of individuals admitted to Albany County treatment programs seeking treatment for heroin/opiates as their primary problem at admission has increased 300% over the ten-year period ending in 2015. 

The CDC reports that more people died from drug overdoses in 2014 than in any year on record. From 2000 to 2014 nearly half a million people died from drug overdoses. 78 Americans die every day from an opioid overdose. The majority of drug overdose deaths—more than six out of ten—involve an opioid. Since 1999, the number of overdose deaths involving heroin, opioids and prescription pain relievers has nearly quadrupled.

Schumer said that this qualifies as a national crisis—one that is hitting the Capital Region particularly hard:

  • In 2012, there were 27 confirmed deaths in Albany County where drugs were involved; 16 deaths were determined to be “Accidental Poly-pharmaceutical Overdoses” and 11 were determined to be “Suicides”.
  • In 2013,there were 31 confirmed heroin/opiate related deaths (16 deaths related to Heroin Overdose; 15 deaths involved an opiate medication).
  • In 2014, there were 36 confirmed heroin/opiate related deaths (19 deaths related to Heroin Overdose; more than 50% between the ages of 20-29 years; 17 additional deaths involved an opiate medication).
  • In 2015, there were 39 confirmed heroin/opiate related deaths (11 deaths related to Heroin Overdose; 16 additional deaths involved an opiate medication; and 12 pending toxicology reports (believed to be opiates related).

Schumer’s push comes as law enforcement has begun to warn 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 the region’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 was joined by Schenectady County Sheriff Dominic Dagostino; Schenectady County District Attorney Robert CarneyStuart Rosenblatt, Executive Director of New Choices Recovery Center; Anthony Jasenski, Chairman of the Schenectady County Legislature; and Mayor Gary McCarthy.