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Peters, Romney Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Fight Spread of Opioids through the Mail

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senators Gary Peters (D-MI), Ranking Member of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, and Mitt Romney (R-UT) introduced bipartisan legislation to combat the circulation of opioids, including fentanyl, through the mail. Illicit trafficking of drugs has fueled the deadly opioid epidemic, and many drug traffickers take advantage of shipping and mailing organizations like the United States Postal Service (USPS) and private shipping companies to move their products. The U.S. Postal Service Opioid & Illicit Drug Strategy Act would require USPS to develop and publish a comprehensive organizational strategy to combat the use of the mail in illicit drug distribution, allowing the agency to identify areas for improvement, enhance coordination across departments, and proactively meet emerging challenges.

“Every year, thousands of Michiganders lose their lives to the opioid epidemic. We must fight the opioid crisis on all fronts, which includes stopping drug traffickers from exploiting our Postal Service to distribute deadly narcotics into our communities,” said Senator Peters. “This commonsense bill would ensure that the Postal Service does everything it can to help address this epidemic and stay one step ahead of drug traffickers as the opioid threat continues to evolve.”

“Utah continues to have a higher opioid overdose death rate than the national average, and our rural communities – particularly Carbon and Emery counties – are disproportionately harmed. As we work on solutions to the opioid crisis in our state and the nation, we must develop a multi-front approach that combats the illicit flow of opioids into our neighborhoods,” said Senator Romney. “After finding that the U.S. Postal Service does not have in place an overarching strategy to combat illicit drug distribution, we are introducing legislation that will fix that and help USPS be proactive and accountable in reducing the distribution of opioids.”

From 2013 through 2018, more than 98,000 people nationwide died of synthetic opioid-related overdoses, the majority of them related to fentanyl consumption. In Michigan, there were 2,053 overdose deaths involving opioids in 2017 alone. USPS and private carriers, in partnership with law enforcement agencies, are responsible for ensuring that the mail is not used to distribute deadly fentanyl, opioids, and other dangerous illicit drugs.

The U.S. Postal Service Opioid & Illicit Drug Strategy Act would help strengthen the federal government’s response to the opioid crisis by requiring USPS to publish a comprehensive organizational strategy to combat the use of the mail in illicit drug distribution. The legislation would mandate that the strategy be updated every two years to address new illicit drug threats and emerging trends. USPS would be required to submit the strategy to Congress and to the Office of National Drug Control Policy, and provide annual briefings to Congress about the status of their efforts.

Senator Peters has long been committed to fighting the deadly opioid epidemic. Earlier this year, Peters joined a bipartisan effort to crack down on Chinese manufacturers and traffickers of fentanyl. In June, the Senate Homeland Security Committee advanced a Peters-led bill to address staffing shortages at the nation’s ports of entry, where many illicit drugs, including opioids, are smuggled into the United States. Peters also helped lead bipartisan efforts to reduce the price of life-saving opioid overdose reversal drugs and expand access to safe, effective medication-assisted treatment for adolescents and young adults struggling with opioid addiction.

The U.S. Postal Service Opioid & Illicit Drug Strategy Act is supported by a broad coalition including the United Postmasters and Managers of America (UPMA), the Fraternal Order of Police, the National Sheriffs Association, the Michigan Association of Chiefs of Police, the Community Anti-Drug Coalition (CADCA), and the Association for Addiction Professionals (NAADAC).

Below are statements in support of the Senators’ legislation:

“UPMA is proud to stand with Senator Peters and Senator Romney to address the opioid epidemic. Opioids addiction and treatment is a serious challenge in the communities where we live and work; impacting the lives of our friends, families, neighbors and customers,” said Daniel  Heins, National President of the United Postmasters and Managers of America. “To the extent criminals can use the mail to improperly distribute these dangerous substances is something all of us should be seriously working to prevent. This legislation is a smart step in the right direction of confronting this important issue.”

“Sheriffs see first-hand the effect of opioids, methamphetamines, and other illicit drugs ravaging their communities across the country,” said Jonathan Thompson, CEO and Executive Director of the National Sheriff’s Association. “We look forward to continuing to work with USPS to better combat the mailing of illicit drug distribution.”

“CADCA is proud to support the U.S. Postal Service Opioid and Illicit Drug Strategy Act of 2019. Working to develop and implement strategic plans and priorities that ensure the U.S. mail can no longer be used for illicit drug distribution is timely, necessary and a high priority for our over 5,000 coalition members,” said General Arthur T. Dean, Chairman and CEO of the Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America. “These communities know firsthand how critically important it is to stem the flow of fentanyl and other deadly drugs into our nation currently moving through our postal system.”

“The potency and proliferation of fentanyl and carfentanyl have robbed so many Americans of their chance at recovery. As the national professional association representing the interests of addiction counselors, educators, and addiction-focused health professionals, NAADAC recognizes the importance of combating the distribution of these deadly substances and others through the mail,” said Cynthia Moreno Tuohy, BSW, NCAC II, CDC III, SAP, and Executive Director of the Association for Addiction Professionals. The U.S. Postal Service Opioid & Illicit Drug Strategy Act takes critical steps to improve our recognition of emerging trends and to respond to the threat they pose to our communities. NAADAC proudly supports the legislation and looks forward to working with Senator Gary Peters to advance the bill.”