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Senator Baldwin Introduces Legislation to Enhance the Public Health Response to Illicit Fentanyl

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin 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.

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.

“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.”

Specifically, the STOP Fentanyl Act would: 

  • 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.

Baldwin joined Senators Ed Markey (D-MA), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), and Cory Booker (D-NJ) to introduce the legislation in the Senate. Representatives Annie Kuster (D-NH) and Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-DE) introduced companion legislation in the House.

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.”