The opioid crisis continues to gain traction across the country, including in Georgia. This has prompted a bipartisan coalition to be formed. It is lobbying for new legislation.
The coalition is called Americans for Securing All Packages and they are trying to get the Synthetic Trafficking and Overdose Prevention (STOP) Act passed.
The STOP Act targets a global postal service loophole which allows illicit drugs like Fentanyl to be sent via the postal service. Former First Secretary of Homeland Security, Tom Ridge, is also a senior advisor for the STOP Act coalition.
“It's a real problem. Actually, if you think about it, it's a weapon of mass destruction,” said Ridge.
That weapon of mass destruction is the wave of opioid abuse sweeping over the country and getting those drugs like Fentanyl is easier than you think.
“Word is out in the illicit drug trade, which is transnational, don't send it through the private carrier send it through your post office because you can send those illicit drugs and there's no way you will be detected unless they are randomly selected,” said Ridge.
In 2015, the Center for Disease Control reported that prescription opioid overdoses killed more than 760 people. Georgia saw more than 1,300 people die and Georgia is 11th in the nation for prescription opioid deaths. That got Congressman Buddy Carter's attention.
“I don't think most people realize how much is coming through the postal service,” said Carter.
In 2017, the post office delivered more than 158 billion pieces of mail, UPS delivered about 16 million, and FedEx about 7 million.
Congressman Carter says it's easy to put drugs in the mail and drug traffickers are taking advantage.
Juliette Kayyam is a senior advisor and proponent of the STOP Act.
“What we want to begin to do is close this loophole by demanding advanced screening data and what this is it essentially ensures that we have an understanding of what is coming to this country who's sending, it where they're sending it from, who they're sending it to, and why it’s in the package,” said Kayyam.
Shutting down this pipeline that is allowing drugs to enter the United States from anywhere will also help law enforcement.
“So that the custom and border protection can pull some suspicious packages aside and open them and determine whether or not it contains illicit drugs,” said Ridge
Ridge says that loophole is fueling a public health crisis nationwide and the statistics are astonishing.
“In 2015, there were more who died of opioid overdoses than were killed in motor vehicle crashes that died by virtue of gun,” said Ridge.
Congressman Buddy Carter says the opioid crisis is at epidemic proportions.
“The epidemic this country has right now, it impacts everyone in this country. Everyone knows of someone or has a family member that been impacted by opioid abuse. We've got to do something about it,” said Carter.
With this new bipartisan initiative, lawmakers are hoping to cut into the deadly opioid numbers.
“If they sent those illicit drugs through a private carrier through UPS, DHL, or FedEx, they would have to provide the information the law provides is they mandate if your sending through your domestic postal service you have to provide the same information,” said Ridge.
Supporters of the STOP act also say they want to cut down on other illegal contraband.
“Right now, regardless of opiates, we have no mechanism in which we are getting information about why it’s coming to this country through the postal service period. So it could be opiates, it could be explosives, could be weaponry and counterfeit goods,” said Kayyam.
The STOP Act has a wide range of support from healthcare advocates to national security experts. They believe it's time for the government to take action and end what they call a national dilemma.
“We need to demand of anybody sending a package from overseas to the United States through their postal service the same kind of information and there is actually information encouragement on the internet saying don't send it through a private carrier send it through your domestic post office chances are really good it will get in the United States that way without detection, we have got to close that loophole,” said Ridge.
Since this is getting bipartisan support, FOX 28 asked former Governor Ridge, what it would take to have this legislation actually make it to the President’s desk.
“In an era right now, where there doesn't seem to be a lot of bipartisan agreement on much of anything, this is an area where we think we can continue to accelerate the process get it through committee and where pretty confident if we get it through the house and senate the President will sign it,” said Ridge.
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