Brooklyn Congresswoman Yvette D. Clarke’s legislation to protect Americans from exposure to synthetic opioids, like fentanyl, passed in the US House of Representatives on Monday.
The Synthetic Opioid Exposure Prevention and Training Act (H.R. 4739) will require mandatory safety measures so workers screening packages and cargo entering the US can properly and safely screen for fentanyl and other synthetic opioids at borders and airports, like New York’s John F. Kennedy International.
“Empowering our workers who screen packages in our airports and at our borders to feel safe, when looking for fentanyl, helps keep this deadly drug off our streets while protecting these workers from accidental exposure and potential death,” said Clarke, who represents the 19th Senatorial District, afterwards. “I’m proud my legislation.
“The Synthetic Opioid Exposure Prevention and Training Act passed the House,” she added. “This means less synthetic opioids, like fentanyl, on our streets. Our workers can have peace of mind as they protect the American people by safely screening for these deadly drugs.”
Clarke said Fentanyl is a synthetic drug “100 times stronger than morphine that was developed to help pain patients and is dispensed in incredibly small dosages due to its potency.”
She said as little as one grain of fentanyl can be deadly when handled improperly.
“Fentanyl’s opioid properties have lent itself to abuse in patients and furthermore has made it to the streets due to its highly addictive nature,” the congresswoman said. “To get a ‘better high’ makers of heroin often lace their products with fentanyl unbeknownst to users resulting in overdose deaths.”
Much of the screening occurs only a few miles from the neighborhoods Clarke represents, at New York’s seaports and at the JFK Airport International Mail Facility – the largest mail screening facility in America – “where every day fentanyl is found hidden in packages from places like China.”
Clarke pointed to a recent Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General (OIG) Management Alert, which identified a number of serious issues with the US Customs and Border Patrol’s (CBP) preparations for accidental contact with synthetics, like fentanyl.
In particular, the Alert highlighted inadequate training procedures, limited preparation for accidental exposure and a frequent failure to ensure that the most common antidote, Naloxone, was readily available in areas where accidental exposure to synthetics could occur.
Clarke said the Synthetic Opioid Exposure Prevention and Training Act will require CBP to implement a number of measures for workers’ safety.
These include specific protocols and procedures outlining the safe handling of substances, which could contain synthetic opioids; mandatory, recurring training to cover the dangers of exposure to synthetics and the proper use of protective equipment and Naloxone; and supply appropriate personal protective equipment to minimize contact if unknown substances must be handled by workers.
The measure also provide sufficient qualities of Naloxone to prevent a tragic outcome should accident exposure occur; and conduct regular updates to these trainings, protocols and procedures to ensure they are effective.