Markey pushes DOD for answers following reports of at least 14 recent overdose deaths at Fort Bragg

Text of Letter (PDF)

Washington (September 29, 2022) – Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), lead sponsor of the Opioid Treatment Access Act and the STOP Fentanyl Act and a former member of the U.S. Commission on Combating Synthetic Opioid Trafficking, led his colleagues Senators John Cornyn (R-Texas), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) in sending a letter to the Department of Defense (DOD) raising the alarm regarding fatal drug overdoses of active duty U.S. service members. In their letter, the Senators point to recent reporting from Rolling Stone detailing at least 14 – and as many as 30 – overdose deaths at Fort Bragg in North Carolina since 2020. The Senators also express concern regarding recent overdoses at Fort Bliss and West Point.

“The deaths and non-fatal overdoses at Fort Bragg, Fort Bliss, and West Point involve opioids and, more specifically, fentanyl, consumed both intentionally and unintentionally,” the Senators wrote. “The significant role opioids have played in overdoses occurring in military hospitals or involving active duty service members is well-documented. From 2010 to 2016, opioid overdose deaths among veterans more than doubled.”

We sincerely appreciate the efforts that DOD has taken to reduce [substance use disorder] and illicit drug use, research and monitor the issue, improve access to treatment, and increase access to, and destigmatize, behavioral healthcare for active military and veterans,” the Senators continued. “While these steps have shown some effectiveness, the recent reports of overdoses indicate a problem that may be underreported and are a call for urgent action to reduce the impact of SUD on those who have sacrificed to serve our country.”

Among their questions to Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III, the Senators asked:

  1. For an accurate count of the number of fatal overdoses that have occurred among active military service members since 2017;
  2. Whether treatment, including Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT), for active duty service members is equally accessible at all military installations;
  3. What support DOD provides to families of an active duty service member who dies from a fatal overdose; and
  4. What protocol is in place for DOD to identify and respond to an uptick in overdoses, either generally or at a specific military installation.