May 25, 2017

During Hearing on Opioid Crisis, Senator Hassan Highlights Dire Challenges of Confronting Deadly Synthetic Opioids

Senator Hassan Underscores Need to Protect First Responders, Postal Workers Who Come in Contact with Dangerous Substances Like Carfentanil

Click here for video of Senator Hassan’s questioning during the subcommittee hearing.

 

WASHINGTON – Today, Senator Maggie Hassan participated in a Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, hearing about how to more effectively stop the shipment of synthetic opioids and their precursors into the United States. Under questioning from Senator Hassan, witnesses from the United States Postal Service (USPS) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) confirmed that exposure to synthetic opioids pose a serious health risk to their employees and outlined that they are taking steps to train staff who may come in contact with these substances.

Senator Hassan noted that individuals can overdose just by touching or breathing in synthetic opiods, and asked Robert Cintron, Vice President of Network Operations Management at the U.S. Postal Service, what the USPS is doing to protect workers while also making sure law enforcement can investigate the supply of these synthetics. Cintron said that “on a regular basis, whether it’s at international service centers or other processing centers around the country, delivery operations, we do a lot of training with our folks around hazardous type conditions… our focus is really to consistently and constantly train employees.”

Telling the story of a law enforcement officer who was stricken after coming in contact with synthetic opioids while dealing with a suspect, Senator Hassan asked Robert Perez, Acting Executive Assistant Commissioner for Operations Support at U.S. Customs and Border Protection what steps CBP has taken to protect its personnel. Perez said, “beginning in 2015, in fact, we began a very comprehensive training and instruction that was deployed to all our front line officers and agents, people who would typically, potentially, come in contact with these substances.” Perez added that the CBP has “also deployed over 600 doses of Narcan, in addition to the Naloxone, throughout the country.”

Senator Hassan also highlighted that fentanyl and synthetics are often purchased online, and asked the Honorable Gregory Thome, Director of the Office of Specialized and Technical Agencies, Bureau of International Organization Affairs at the U.S. Department of State, what steps are being taken by the Department to crack down on illegal purchases of synthetic drugs and the precursor chemicals that are used to create them. Mr. Thome said that “in response to repeated U.S. requests… China has, in fact, domestically controlled now more than 134 synthetic drugs, including carfentanil.”

Senator Hassan has joined Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) in introducing the STOP Act, bipartisan legislation that would help stop dangerous synthetic drugs like fentanyl and carfentanil from being shipped into America. Senator Hassan also joined Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) in introducing the SALTS Act, which would empower law enforcement to crack down on synthetic substances and better prosecute drug traffickers.

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