Washington (April 29, 2021) -- Today, Senators Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), and Cory Booker (D-N.J.) introduced the Support, Treatment, and Overdose Prevention (STOP) of Fentanyl Act to combat the fentanyl overdose crisis. This comprehensive legislation would bolster the public health response to deadly illicit fentanyl and other synthetic opioids by building on previous efforts by Congress to expand access to substance-use treatment, enhance overdose prevention, and improve public health surveillance, monitoring, and education. Representatives Annie Kuster (D-N.H.) and Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-Del.) introduced companion legislation in the House.
Despite fewer Americans dying from drug overdoses involving heroin and prescription opioids, the United States continues to set records for drug overdose deaths. The continued increase is primarily driven by dramatic rises in deaths involving fentanyl and other synthetic opioids. From 2013 to 2019, the rate of fatalities involving fentanyl and other synthetic opioids rose from 1.0 per 100,000 people to 11.4 per 100,000. According to initial estimates from the CDC, more than 87,200 people died from an overdose in 2020, marking the largest number of overdose deaths ever recorded in a 12-month period, driven by a significant increase in overdose deaths involving synthetic opioids like fentanyl.1
“Fentanyl continues to erode any progress we make in the opioid crisis,” said Senator Markey. “Our communities have suffered far too much for too long when it comes to opioids. I am proud that the STOP Fentanyl Act builds on a public health approach to substance-use, instead of doubling down on the failed policies of the War on Drugs. In addition to working to prevent fentanyl from entering our communities, we must ensure that individuals with substance-use disorders have access to the help they need and that our first responders have the tools to respond to this crisis.”
"It's critical that lawmakers address fentanyl use primarily through our public health system, rather than our criminal justice system," said Senator Warren. "By bolstering the public health infrastructure states, localities, and law enforcement agencies rely on to track and prevent fentanyl use, this bill will provide overdue resources to communities in need."
“Illicit fentanyl is a relentless, deadly force at the center of the opioid crisis. We need to spread the word on how to fight it, deploy proven treatments and support to the front lines, and carefully track what’s working. Comprehensive approaches like this one, alongside other successful opioid measures like my CARA legislation, can give us the upper hand in the battle against opioids,” said Senator Whitehouse.
“I’ve met with local health officials, law enforcement and those who have lost loved ones to the opioid epidemic throughout Wisconsin, and it’s clear we need to be a partner in supporting local prevention, treatment and recovery efforts,” said Senator Baldwin. “In Wisconsin, we have seen a growing fentanyl problem and spike in overdose deaths. This legislation is an important step forward and will help provide Wisconsin more tools to save lives.”
“In the last two decades, hundreds of thousands of Americans lost their lives from opioid overdoses. We all want our safer communities and we want people to be protected from the deadly disease of addiction and from the deadly drugs that are fueling the opioid crisis,” said Senator Booker. “But the way to do that is not to treat addiction with even more mass incarceration. The STOP Fentanyl Act treats this crisis as the problem it is – a public health crisis that demands a public health response. I am proud to join my colleagues in introducing this legislation so that individuals with substance-use disorders have access to the medical and social support they need.”
- Expand Fentanyl Research and Education: Enhances the public health surveillance of fentanyl-related substances, improves efforts to better detect and share data on fentanyl, and pursues more effective Substance Use Disorder (SUD) treatment programs
- Enhance Overdose Prevention: Reports on evidence-based interventions to reduce overdose deaths, improves access to opioid overdose reversal drug Naloxone, establishes Federal Good Samaritan immunity protections for individuals providing care to someone who is overdosing
- Support Substance Use Disorder Treatment Programs: Removes barriers and expands access to Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT), maintains enhanced telehealth access to opioid use disorder treatment, helps state and community-based organizations address the harms of drug misuse, and funds education for stakeholders on evidence-based treatment for opioid and fentanyl misuse
- Provide Public Health Data and Training Support: Expands access to public health trainings for law enforcement handling fentanyl-related substances, examines which countries are producing synthetic drugs, and supports public health surveillance at forensic laboratories
The STOP Fentanyl Act is endorsed by the Drug Policy Alliance and the American Society for Addiction Medicine (ASAM).
“Rather than continuing to rely on policing and incarceration-first strategies that have consistently failed to prevent overdose deaths or reduce the supply of illicit fentanyl-related substances, the S.T.O.P. Fentanyl Act provides policymakers with a forward-thinking, health- and evidence-based approach to address the root cause of fentanyl-related overdoses and other associated harms,” said Grant Smith, Deputy Director of the Office of National Affairs at the Drug Policy Alliance. “It does this by bolstering public health programs and research, increasing access to low-threshold harm reduction, other health resources and drug education, and eliminating regulatory barriers to life-saving medication—such as methadone and buprenorphine—used to treat opioid use disorder. With at least 90,000 overdose deaths in 2020, we simply cannot afford to keep returning to enforcement-first approaches to public health challenges like illicit fentanyl that has failed us time and again over the last 50 years. The S.T.O.P. Fentanyl Act allows us to diverge from the past and overcome this serious public health challenge with an equally serious public health solution.”
“Overdose deaths surged to all-time highs during the COVID-19 pandemic, driven by synthetic opioids like fentanyl,” said Dr. Yngvild Olsen, chair of the American Society of Addiction Medicine’s Legislative Advocacy Committee. “The S.T.O.P. Fentanyl Act of 2021 is a comprehensive public health package that would help addiction treatment professionals reduce overdose deaths, connect individuals with evidence-based treatment and support ongoing prevention and harm reduction efforts that will save lives in communities across the country. ASAM thanks Senators Markey, Warren, Whitehouse, and Baldwin for introducing this critical legislation.”
Senator Markey has been a leader in working to prevent fentanyl and other synthetic opioids from entering the country through international trade. In 2019, Senator Markey and Congresswoman Katherine Clark (MA-05) introduced legislation to mandate 100 percent screening of all inbound international mail and express cargo from high-risk countries for illicit fentanyl and other illicit synthetic opioids. Senator Markey also recently secured
provisions in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee mark-up of the Strategic Competition Act of 2021
that would increase oversight of United States government efforts to combat the illicit fentanyl and opioid trade originating from the People’s Republic of China.