Sen. Charles Schumer on Friday announced his support for a bill that gives U.S. Customs and Border Protection additional tools to prevent fentanyl, a synthetic opioid far more potent than heroin, from coming into locations in Nassau County and across the United States.
“Fentanyl is rearing its ugly head in Long Island,” said Schumer, who spoke at Floral Park Village Hall. “Fentanyl doesn’t come from our shores. We can stop it before it comes in.”
The bill, called the INTERDICT Act, provides chemical screening devices and trained personnel at ports of entry and post office locations where fentanyl is likely to be encountered, Schumer said.
“Fentanyl is 50 to 100 times more potent than heroin,” Schumer said. “One shot and you can die.”
Last year there were 71 fentanyl overdoes in Suffolk County and 60 in Nassau County, he added. The quantity of fentanyl that came into the United States in 2016 was 25 times greater than the amount a year prior, he said.
“We need every tool available to curb this deadly scourge in our communities,” said Madeline Singas, the Nassau County District Attorney.
The bill calls for $15 million in spending to account for the payment of additional personnel and the provision of the screening devices.
Schumer did not know the price of each device but said it’s in the tens of thousand of dollars.
“It’s not something you can pick up at your local Seven-Eleven,” he said.
Schumer said the spending would come from the hundreds of millions of dollars appropriated to combat opioid abuse in a $1.2 trillion spending bill passed by the Senate on Thursday that, if signed by president Donald Trump, will fund the federal government through September.
The bill has six democratic cosponsors and three republican ones, among them Marco Rubio (R-Florida) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts).
Schumer acknowledged that law enforcement is not the only means to combat the rise in opioid-related deaths.
“We also need treatment,” he said. “I’ve had parents who sob in my arms because their children waited for treatment and died of an overdose.”
Schumer expects the bill to come up for a vote in June, he said.
On Thursday, Singas announced a nine-year sentence for Bryan Jennings, 35, of Valley Stream, who pled guilty to three counts of felony in connection to the sale of heroin laced with fentanyl that was linked to two fatal overdoses in Nassau County, according to a statement from Singas.
At the press conference on Friday, Schumer also commented on the American Health Care Act, a bill passed by House Republicans on Thursday.
“If you read the newspapers, both democrats and republicans say that bill won’t fly in the Senate,” Schumer said. “One of the reasons is it doesn’t deal with preexisting conditions.”