Long Island law enforcement officials joined U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer July 1 outside the Nassau County Police Department’s 1st Precinct, on Merrick Road in Baldwin, to urge Congress to pass the Fentanyl Sanctions Act, which aims to combat the flow of synthetic opioids into Long Island and other communities around the country from outside the United States.
The legislation aims to stem the national opioid epidemic, which has hit Long Island hard, and to target a key trafficker of fentanyl, a synthetic opioid commonly used for surgery and for treating cancer pain, which in 2017 surpassed heroin as the deadliest drug on the Island and is now the leading cause of overdose deaths, according to health officials. Authorities said that fentanyl is trafficked into the U.S. primarily from China and Mexico.
The drug, which is legally prescribed in lozenge or transdermal patch form, killed 220 people in Nassau and Suffolk counties in 2016, according to The New York Times. Fentanyl is a powerful and highly addictive synthetic opioid that is 80 to 100 times more potent than morphine.
“The main message today is . . . we have got to find meaningful ways to hold China, currently the world’s largest producer of illicit fentanyl, accountable for its very local role in the trade and trafficking of this deadly drug,” Schumer said in a statement. “For years, Chinese laboratories have been cooking up formulas of death and freely exporting lethal fentanyl across Long Island, where it is killing too many people, and it has to stop.”
Schumer rallied with members of local law enforcement to urge lawmakers to pass the Fentanyl Sanctions Act in Congress so it could be signed into law. The plan passed the Senate and is awaiting passage in the House. Schumer said there was no time to waste, and outlined ways that the plan would help New York and Long Island, including setting aside at least $450 million in federal funding that would help support the Drug Enforcement Agency and High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area work. It also aims to alleviate the burden on members of local law enforcement bearing the costs of addressing fentanyl crimes.
Officials said the bill would hold China accountable for illicit trafficking on Long Island, similar to Russia sanctions. About 2,000 people died of opioid overdoses in New York between November 2017 and November 2018, according to a news release from Schumer’s office. About 1,500 of those deaths were caused by synthetic opioids like fentanyl.
“Drug traffickers based overseas are flooding the United States with deadly fentanyl,” Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas said in a statement. “While we’ve made tremendous strides in the battle against opioids here on Long Island, we need the federal government to intervene and stop these drugs from ever arriving on our shores. The Fentanyl Sanctions Act will bring us one step closer to ending the opioid epidemic.”
Officials said the bill would direct the president to identify foreign traffickers of opioids on an annual basis and use a number of tools to cripple their operations, including denying access to U.S. markets, blocking transactions with U.S. financial institutions and denying visas. The legislation would also establish a Commission on Synthetic Opioid Trafficking to monitor U.S. efforts and report on how to combat the flow of synthetic opioids from China and Mexico.
“The Suffolk County Police Department continues to combat the opioid epidemic that is destroying addicts’ lives and ripping families apart,” Suffolk Police Commissioner Geraldine Hart said in a statement. “I commend Senator Schumer for his Fentanyl Sanctions Act and urge the House of Representatives to pass the legislation that would curtail synthetic opioids coming into this country.”