Column: States get help to fight deadly fentanyl


President Trump signs bill to make Fentanyl harder to get

U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) is making progress on his war against drug abuse.

On Wednesday, Brown’s bipartisan bill to keep illegal fentanyl out of Ohio was signed into law by President Trump. Brown joined Trump at the White House as the Interdict Act was signed into law.

“This law is about giving law enforcement the tools they need to keep fentanyl out of our country and off Ohio streets,” said Brown. “We must build on this bipartisan momentum and come together to start combatting the addiction epidemic like the public health emergency that it is.”

There are no simple answers to the drug abuse problem in Ohio.

It is going to take a combination of federal enforcement; local law enforcement; more drug treatment opportunities; more education for users, parents, and those who prescribe painkillers and harsher penalties for those bringing lethal drugs like fentanyl into Ohio.

Locally, judges have had it with drug-related crimes.

“Drug-related crimes in Crawford County have greatly decreased over the last three years, especially burglaries and robberies which are very serious felonies and put innocent people in danger,” said Crawford County Common Pleas Judge Sean Leuthold.

“This is especially true because burglaries, break-ins, robberies and thefts affect innocent people. While I am certainly concerned with people using drugs, I am more concerned with protecting innocent people from crimes that are committed by drug users. Our county certainly owes a debt of gratitude to the hard-working men and women in law enforcement. Clearly Crawford County is headed in the right direction.”

When the Interdict Bill was passed, a Youngstown Vindicator editorial called it “among the best news of year” in the fight against the opioid epidemic.

“… among the best news of the year … U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, through persistence and new support from the Fraternal Order of Police, pushed through his InterdictAct hours before senators beat feet for their long holiday recess,” wrote the Vindicators.

The signing comes as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released new data late last month showing Ohio had the second highest death rate by drug overdose in the U.S in 2016.

The Interdict act will provide U.S. Customs and Border Protection with additional hi-tech screening equipment and lab resources to detect fentanyl before it enters the U.S.

Several state and national law enforcement organizations, including the Ohio Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) and the Buckeye State Sheriffs’ Association, have endorsed Brown’s bill. Brown’s bill was also supported by U.S. Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) and Brown is supporting Portman’s Stop Act, which is also endorsed by law enforcement.

The two bills work together to help block the deadly synthetic opioid from reaching Ohio communities.

“Exposure to synthetic opioids like fentanyl, even in small amounts, is dangerous to Ohio law enforcement officers and the citizens they serve. As we work to keep these deadly synthetic opioids out of Ohio communities, Sen. Brown’s bill provides important tools to prevent fentanyl from crossing our borders in the first place. Ohio FOP was glad to support the INTERDICT Act and we are pleased that the legislation is now law,” said Ohio Fraternal Order of the Police President Jay McDonald.

But some added tools for law enforcement and judges in Ohio and other states would be helpful.

Fentanyl is killing people. Users are buying heroin and cocaine and marijuana. Many users have no idea that their product is being cut with fentanyl and they are dying. For that reason, anyone who sells and distributes fentanyl should be charged with murder, or attempted murder or conspiracy to commit murder.

Still, Crawford County criminals are getting the message.

“Clearly, over the last three years, people are getting the message that Crawford County is not the place to commit drug-related crime,” said Municipal Court Judge Shane Leuthold said. “Criminal behavior is being successfully investigated, prosecuted and most importantly punished in the appropriate manner. Simply put, criminals are now being held accountable and the crime rate indicates that.”

Brown’s law will authorize $15 million for new screening devices, laboratory equipment, facilities, and personnel for 24/7 lab support. The money will be used to:

  • Provide more portable chemical screening devices at ports of entry and mail and express consignment facilities and additional fixed chemical screening devices available in Customs and Border Protection laboratories.
  • Provide Customs and Border Protection with sufficient resources, personnel, and facilities — including scientists available during all operational hours — to interpret screening test results from the field.
  • Providing Customs and Border Protection with more screening devices and lab support will not only stop more Fentanyl from coming into the U.S., it will also protect more agents in the field from exposure to dangerous substances.

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Russ Kent

Galion Inquirer

 

 

Russ Kent is editor of the Galion Inquirer. Email him at rkent@aimmediamidwest.com. Some information from this column was provided by U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown’s office.