Administration Should Address Major Source Fueling Heroin and Opioids Crisis
As Obama Administration Works to Combat Epidemic, Pressure Mounts to Close Loophole Allowing Deadly Drugs into U.S.
Washington, D.C. – As the Obama Administration declares this week Prescription Opioid and Heroin Epidemic Awareness Week, a major issue fueling the crisis that’s killing Americans in historic numbers has largely been ignored. Every day, packages containing toxic, counterfeit and illicit drugs from foreign countries come in through the U.S. Postal Service without efficient security data to stop them. As policymakers and law enforcement agencies consider new strategies to combat America’s growing opioid epidemic, support to close a dangerous loophole allowing counterfeit, illicit and lethal drugs to be shipped to Americans’ doorsteps is gaining increasing momentum.
According to a recent letter from the Senate Finance Committee, packages that enter the U.S. from foreign posts are not subject to the same screening standards as packages shipped by private carriers. U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) does not receive electronic security data for the vast majority of this type of mail, which greatly reduces the agency’s ability to intercept illegal drugs and dangerous or counterfeit goods.
“The U.S. government has a basic obligation to keep the American people safe,” said Tom Ridge, the first U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security and Senior Adviser to Americans for Securing All Packages. “As we’re experiencing a significant public health crisis, we need the Administration to do more to prevent these drugs from reaching our shores in the first place.”
This international security gap supports a public health crisis which led to more fatalities in 2014 than the height of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in 1995, and recent headlines illustrate just how dire circumstances are in communities across the country. In Kentucky, 476 people died from opioid-related overdoses in the first half of 2016 while 74 residents have died in Manchester, NH. In just one week this summer, 96 people died from overdoses in the Cincinnati area. Last year in Ohio’s Hamilton County there was a heroin related death every single day (and was linked to the drug being cut with fentanyl and Carfentanil). Local officials are also finding that multiple doses of naloxone are often required to stop a lethal overdose, straining limited local resources.
“Deadly synthetic opioids originating in China including fentanyl and elephant tranquilizer Carfentanil are increasingly contributing to overdose deaths across the country, but a million packages a day are coming into American communities without the electronic data law enforcement needs to target them,” said Juliette Kayyem Senior Adviser to Americans for Securing All Packages. “As we work to fight the opioid epidemic, we can’t ignore an obvious pipeline of illicit goods coming into our country.”
According to a factsheet recently released by the White House, more Americans die from drug overdoses than in traffic accidents each year and more than 60 percent of those fatalities involve an opioid. The number of opioid-related deaths has quadrupled since 1999.
As circumstances become increasingly dire, policymakers, health care advocates and national security experts alike are calling for simple reforms to help solve a complex problem. Just last week, Representatives Pat Tiberi (R-OH) and Richard Neal (D-MA) introduced bipartisan legislation that would require electronic security data on all packages shipped to the United States, following similar legislation proposed by Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH), Ron Johnson (R-WI) and Kelly Ayotte (R-NH).
Under the Trade Act of 2002, Congress authorized the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to receive advance electronic security data on all packages entering the United States, but the U.S. Postal Service has yet to adopt these measures.
About Americans for Securing All Packages
Americans for Securing All Packages (ASAP) is a bipartisan coalition composed of health care advocates, national security experts, businesses and nonprofits who believe it is time for the U.S. government to take action and ensure that all packages being shipped to the United States from any foreign postal service are adequately screened before arriving on the doorsteps of unsuspecting Americans.