Late last year Congressman Tim Ryan (D-OH-13) and Dave Joyce (R-OH-14) led 48 bipartisan lawmakers in asking the Trump administration for additional emergency funding to combat the nation’s opioid epidemic
Ohio Congressman Tim Ryan explains how the United States Postal Service must be closely monitored in order to prevent transport of opioids.
Rep. Tim Ryan: It has been devastating to Ohio, it’s been devastating to West Virginia, it’s been devastating to New Hampshire, and other places in the United States. We’re working across the board on a lot of different issues from prevention to working with law enforcement to rehab and treatment.
The opioid epidemic is the deadliest drug crisis in US history. The drugs are used for pain relief, and hydrocodone and oxycodone are the most commonly prescribed. The effects are indistinguishable from heroin, which has led to widespread abuse.
Opioid-related overdose deaths rose 18%, and in 2016 alone, 42,249 people died from opioid-related overdoses. As a result, US life expectancy declined to 78.6 years
Many opioids like fentanyl are ordered and mailed in small doses, making them difficult to detect.
Rep. Tim Ryan: One of the issues really is that quite simply people are shipping these drugs from places around the world through the United States Postal Service, and so we need to have a better monitoring mechanism in place to be able to try to track and you’re really trying to find a needle on a haystack but there are ways to do that and try to limit the ability of these drug dealers to ship their product right through the United States Postal Service. We have an obligation to do that.
In June, the DOJ closed down AlphaBay, an online market for contraband. The site hosted over 250,000 listings for illegal drugs.
In October, Trump declared the opioid crisis a public health emergency.
Trump: That is why, effective today, my administration is officially declaring the opioid crisis a national public health emergency under federal law, and why I am directing all executive agencies to use every appropriate emergency authority to fight the opioid crisis.
But critics say that’s not enough. Declaring a national emergency would push more federal money to the issue.
Rep. Tim Ryan: This is a huge task and the real problem is that the President, while he did declare it a public health emergency, there’s absolutely no money that goes along with that declaration. So we’ve got to have the resources in place and that includes being able to have a more sophisticated way of monitoring things that are coming in through the United States Postal Service.
USPS taking actions to help interdict flow of illegal drugs entering the U.S.
The U.S. Postal Service, and its law enforcement arm, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, are taking actions to help interdict the flow of illegal drugs entering the United States. The Postal Service is deeply concerned about America’s opioid crisis and we will work tirelessly to address this serious societal issue.
International mail security is a responsibility the Postal Service shares with other federal agencies, including the U.S. Department of State, and the Department of Homeland Security. The Postal Service has prioritized obtaining Advance Electronic Data (AED) from the largest volume foreign postal operators and now collects AED for more than 90 percent of its outbound international mail.
The Postal Service currently receives data on a substantial amount of inbound shipments, including those originating in China. We’ve grown in-bound AED collection from one percent to approximately 35 percent just since 2015. The increase in the percentage of inbound items with AED is expected to continue to grow, especially as we increase our partnership with commercial providers and more countries develop their capacities to provide this data.
There have been significant improvements in our ability to seize these dangerous drugs from the mail. From FY2016 through August of this year, the Postal Inspection Service has achieved a three-and-a-half fold increase in international parcel seizures, and an eight-fold increase in domestic parcel seizures related to synthetic opioids.
The Postal Service agrees with the goals of proposed legislative solutions to increase data on inbound packages coming into the United States in order to improve the targeting of illicit drugs entering the country. However, we strongly recommend that data targets should be phased in beginning with countries that currently have the capability to provide this information.
The Postal Service is committed to taking all practicable measures to ensure our nation’s mail security and to provide the American public the best, most efficient service possible.