Two senators are joining together in a bipartisan push to expand resources to agents on the U.S.-Mexico border so they can better fight fentanyl trafficking.
Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio is pushing his fellow senators to support a bill that would arm U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents with new technology that can help identify illicit shipments of opioids. The legislation, co-sponsored by Republican Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio, would free up $15 million in federal funds for new personnel, facilities, testing equipment and screening devices at the border, reports Dayton Daily News.
Brown is speaking out about the proposal in the wake of data released Thursday by the Centers for Disease Control Prevention showing a large spike in opioid-related deaths in Ohio last year. He says the situation is “devastating” his state and requires immediate action from lawmakers on Capitol Hill.
“Law enforcement officers need every tool available to keep fentanyl out of the country and off of Ohio streets,” Brown said Thursday in a statement, according to Dayton Daily News.
Ohio now has the second highest drug overdose death rate in the U.S. behind only West Virginia. The state lost 4,329 residents to drug overdoses in 2016, a 24 percent increase over the previous year.
Nearly 40 per 100,000 people in the state now die from a drug-related overdose in Ohio, largely due to the influx of synthetic opioids like fentanyl and its analogs, which are at least 50 to 100 times more powerful than morphine.
Officials say without the presence of the overdose reversal drug naloxone, commonly called Narcan, the number of opioid deaths would be much higher. First responders in Ohio administered roughly 43,000 doses of naloxone in 2016.
Nationally, drug overdoses are the leading cause of accidental death for Americans under age 50, killing 63,600 people in 2016.
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