Schumer visits North Country hospital to promote FEND Off Fentanyl Act
Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) was at Champlain Valley Physicians Hospital in Plattsburgh Tuesday to promote a bill that aims to tackle the fentanyl crisis at its source.
Flanked by local first response officials and hospital employees in the board room, Schumer said Clinton County has seen firsthand the devastation fentanyl can have on a community. He said local law enforcement have seized 2,500 bags of the powerful drug this year.
"In the past two years, Clinton County has seen 29 deaths from opioid overdoses," he added. "For a county like this, that’s a heck of a lot."
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than two-thirds of overdose deaths in 2022 involved synthetic opioids like fentanyl. Schumer said it’s been hard to address fentanyl because it’s relatively cheap and easy to make, is prevalent in other drugs, and comes from overseas.
"Chinese companies — with the Chinese government just looking the other way and winking — sends the precursor chemicals that are made into fentanyl ... to Mexico," he said. "Mexico then, in its labs, these drug dealers and others change it into fentanyl and send it across the border."
Schumer said the Senate has added a bill to the National Defense Authorization Act to try to tackle the problem by going after China and Mexico. The FEND (Fentanyl Eradication and Narcotics Deterrence) Off Fentanyl Act would declare international fentanyl trafficking a national emergency. Schumer said it would also give President Joe Biden emergency powers to put sanctions on China — and even Mexico — if they don’t help stop the flow of fentanyl.
Schumer said passage of the bill was broadly bipartisan, so it has a good chance of becoming law. But now it’s up to the Republican-led House to take it up.
"If the House heeds the call, we will fight this horrible crisis with the toughest thing we can do to a foreign country economically, which is economic sanctions," he said.
Crystal Brant is a recovery coach with Champlain Valley Family Center who works at the hospital, and one of the people who stood with Schumer during his remarks. She said she doesn’t think the government is doing enough to address addiction, and that a big issue in this area is the lack of available beds for people in crisis.
"A person who’s in a mental health crisis or an addiction crisis and (wants) help right now and they can’t get it, they go back out, and most likely are probably not going to come back in to ask for help again because of getting that no answer."
Brant, who’s been in recovery from addiction for more than three years, said there should be more conversations about addiction in government circles. She also said the focus for addressing fentanyl should be on the southern border, where much of it gets into the U.S.
"I think they’re doing a good job; I think it could be more prevalent though because ... fentanyl’s killing the young generation," Brant said.
Schumer said the NDAA, and thus the FEND Off Fentanyl Act, need to be passed by the end of the year.