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Legislative Updates

Senate HELP Committee advances bipartisan bill to address opioid crisis

Today, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee unanimously approved the Opioid Crisis Response Act of 2018 (S. 2680), a bill aimed at combating opioid abuse. Introduced by Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Patty Murray (D-WA), the bill now proceeds to the Senate floor for a vote, which is expected in the coming months.

Among the many actions S. 2680 would take, the bill would upgrade facilities in order to increase and improve inspection and detection capabilities at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Department of Homeland Security (DOH), and the U.S. Postal Service in order to improve detection and seizure of illegal drugs, such as fentanyl.

The result of seven bipartisan hearings, S. 2680 enjoys wide bipartisan support as it is cosponsored by seven Democrats and six Republicans and voted 23-0 to advance through committee. This legislation marks a positive Congressional step at addressing a public health crisis plaguing the United States. Estimated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, opioid use was the cause of more than 42,000 deaths across the country in 2016.

“Our goal is to move urgently, effectively, and in a bipartisan way. This is a broad-based set of 40 different proposals to address the opioid crisis,” said Sen. Alexander, Chairman of the HELP Committee. “The bill could help states and communities begin to bring an end to the opioid crisis by reducing the number of prescription opioids, stopping illegal drugs at the border, and accelerating research on non-addictive pain medicines.”

“I’m grateful to members on both sides of the aisle for their strong work on the policies in our bill, which will offer families and communities in Washington and across the country much-needed tools and resources as they continue working to stop this epidemic and rebuild,” said Sen. Murray, Ranking Member of the HELP Committee. “The work isn’t over, and I look forward to more bipartisan progress in support of everyone on the frontlines of the opioid crisis looking to Congress for support.” 

With regards to the Postal Service, import and international mail facilities would be outfitted with controlled substance detection and testing equipment and other applicable technology. Of particular importance, no mention is made in this bill of the use of advanced electronic data (AED), which is prevalent across other pieces of legislation, notably the Synthetics Trafficking and Overdose Prevention (STOP) Act of 2017 (H.R. 1057 and S. 372). As letter carriers know, USPS has a universal service obligation in the United States that includes the delivery of mail, printed matter, parcels and other items from every country in the world. Many of the operators in poorer countries lack the technological and financial resources to comply with the AED mandate and other customs’ requirements.

America’s letter carriers, who work in every neighborhood in the country, have seen the devastating impact of opioids firsthand. We are fully committed to working with Congress to fight the epidemic in any way we can.

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