Washington (October 2, 2023) - Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass) and Congresswoman Barbara Lee (CA-12) today led 18 of their colleagues in urging the Biden-Harris administration to develop and publicly announce a national fentanyl harm reduction strategy specifically focused on enhancing public health infrastructure and addressing the collateral consequences that stem from drug arrests and convictions.
The lawmakers emphasized that this strategy should support increased availability of local overdose prevention centers (OPCs) and expanded access to vital medical interventions, including naloxone, drug testing strips, sterile syringes and pipes, methadone, and buprenorphine.
According to the most recent data from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as many as 109,593 people in the United States died of drug overdoses in the 12-month period ending in January 2023. Of this figure, a staggering 67% of deaths involved synthetic opioids such as fentanyl. Fentanyl is involved in more deaths of Americans under the age of 50 than any cause of death, including heart disease, cancer, homicide, suicide and other accidents.
The lawmakers urged the administration to:
The lawmakers wrote, “Furthermore, strong evidence indicates that OPCs reduce the transmission of HIV and hepatitis, prevent overdose deaths, reduce public injections and the volume of shared or discarded syringes, and increase the number of drug users who enter treatment programs. The Biden-Harris administration should set forth federal policy to support the availability and expansion of OPCs as effective harm reduction tools.”
“Further criminalizing fentanyl and doubling down on punitive drug policies only complicates our efforts to address the overdose crisis; people are deterred from seeking needed medical help, and illicit drug manufacturers and sellers are incentivized to create new and increasingly deadly drugs that aren’t covered by existing criminal laws,” they continued. “With the Biden-Harris administration’s recent announcement of a plan to address the growing threat of fentanyl, we urge you to take every opportunity to prevent fentanyl-related overdoses from claiming scores of American lives daily.”