WASHINGTON, D.C. – Thursday night a piece of legislation aimed at combating the opioid epidemic authored by Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) and Congresswoman Niki Tsongas (D-MA) moved passed the Senate.

The International Narcotics Trafficking Emergency Response by Detecting Incoming Contraband with Technology (INTERDICT) Act [H.R. 2142] is now awaiting approval in the White House to become law.

The INTERDICT Act will provide the latest chemical screening devices, and scientific support to help the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) detect and intercept fentanyl and other synthetic opioids. In October, the House passed the measure by a vote of 412 to 3.

Credit: Master Sgt. Cohen A. Young, 455th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs — Congresswoman Niki Tsongas greeting troops in Afghanistan in 2014

Senators Edward Markey (D-MA), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), and Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) recently introduced companion 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.
Credit: PA House — Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick with the Homeland Security Committee

Fitzpatrick is urging President Donald Trump to sign the INTERDICT Act quickly.

“As communities across my district and across our nation continue to deal with the crisis of opioid abuse and addiction it’s hard to imagine a synthetic drug up to 50 times stronger than heroin and 100 times stronger than morphine,” Fitzpatrick said.

“I am pleased that my colleagues on both sides of the aisle, first in the House and now the Senate, have voted to advance this important measure.”

The Senate’s passage of the legislation came shortly after the Centers for Disease and Control Prevention (CDC) released a report which shows the U.S. life expectancy declines for the second consecutive year in 2016 from 78.7 to 78.6 years. Various analyses tie the rise in fatal drug overdoses to the CDC statistics. Since 2014-2015, Pennsylvania has seen a 20.1% rise in overdose rates.