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Committee Advances Pascrell Legislation Preventing Synthetic Opioids from Entering United States

Washington, DC, May 16, 2018

Today, Representative Bill Pascrell, Jr. (D-NJ-09), Ranking Member on the Ways and Means Subcommittee on Trade, announced passage in the House Committee on Ways and Means of H.R. 5788, the Securing the International Mail Against Opioids Act, which mandates that the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) obtain advance electronic data (AED) on international mail shipments, allowing U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to target opioid shipments and other illegal imports and prevent their entry into the United States. Rep. Pascrell is the lead Democratic cosponsor of the measure sponsored by Rep. Mike Bishop (R-MI).

“As I saw last week at the International Bulk Mail Center in Secaucus, ports of entries remain attractive junctures for the flow of synthetic opioids that pour into our communities. The legislation will codify into law the collection of data that will help CBP and the USPS to screen for and capture illicit drugs entering our country through the mail,” said Rep. Pascrell. “In 2017 alone, CBP seized more than 1,100 pounds of fentanyl. We cannot continue to let shipments of opioids slip through the cracks. I believe that this legislation is a strong starting point to help seal those cracks and keep our communities safer.”

Last week, Rep. Pascrell toured the New Jersey International Bulk Mail Center in Secaucus, New Jersey with Rep. Frank Pallone, the Ranking Member of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce. They met with officials of the USPS, Food and Drug Administration, and CBP to discuss recent legislative efforts to combat the importation of illicit opioids into the United States.

The Securing the International Mail Against Opioids Act of 2018 would:

  • Require USPS to transmit AED on at least 70% of international packages by Dec 31, 2018 and 95% of international packages by December 31, 2022.
  • Direct multilateral and bilateral diplomatic efforts with foreign postal operators and our international partners. Bilateral efforts would be targeted and ensure that foreign postal operators are transmitting AED. Multilateral efforts led by the State Department will focus on raising international standards for all countries.
  • Establish rigorous oversight mechanism to ensure that CBP and USPS are held accountable to Congress, including a requirement to establish a joint strategic plan which details specific performance measures and benchmarks for meeting the bill’s mandate.  
  • Empower USPS to take remedial actions against non-compliant foreign postal services to refuse shipment of packages that don’t include advance electronic data.
  • Require CBP and USPS to collaborate to identify and develop new technologies that will improve the detection of synthetic opioids and other narcotics and harmful substances so that we can stop these from entering our country.

The Ways and Means Committee also approved other legislation to combat the opioid epidemic including H.R. 5774, the Combating Opioid Abuse for Care in Hospitals (COACH) Act which would boost provider education to prevent addiction and improve pain management; H.R. 5775, the Providing Reliable Options for Patients and Educational Resources (PROPER) Act, which would provide better information and education to beneficiaries; and H.R. 5776, the Medicare and Opioid Safe Treatment (MOST) Act, which would fill in the gaps for opioid treatment programs.

“This raft of bipartisan legislation will make important reforms in the way this country is able to respond to the ever-growing opioid crisis, such as supporting non-opioid alternatives.  Nevertheless, the resources provided in these bills barely scratch the surface. Much more robust resources from Congress are needed to begin to reverse the spiraling trend of the opioid epidemic. It is my hope that this is not the last set of opioid legislation to be debated by this Congress and I continue to ask for a commitment from the majority to hold future hearings and consider stronger legislation on this pressing issue,” said Rep. Pascrell.

Rep. Pascrell has been a leader in the House in combatting the opioid epidemic. Pascrell is a lead sponsor of H.R. 5197, the bipartisan Alternatives to Opioids (ALTO) in the Emergency Department Act, which would establish a demonstration program to test alternative pain management protocols to limit the use of opioids in emergency departments, and provide grant funding to build these programs. The legislation is based on a successful program pioneered at St. Joseph’s Medical Center in Paterson, New Jersey. Companion legislation in the Senate is sponsored by Sens. Cory Booker and Bob Menendez. Both the House and Senate legislation have been passed by their respective committees and await action on the House and Senate floor.

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