Bipartisanship in politics at any level these days is rare, so when Republicans and Democrats agree on anything, it’s worth noting.
Such a moment came Wednesday when President Donald Trump signed the Interdict Act, a federal bill which had been introduced last year by Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown, a Democrat, and also backed by Ohio’s Republican senator, Rob Portman.
Both Brown and Portman were at the White House when the president signed the bill, which aims to keep fentanyl and other synthetic opioids from being smuggled into the United States.
Fentanyl is similar to morphine but is 50 to 100 times more potent, and is sometimes added to heroin. It has played an increasing role in Ohio overdose deaths the past several years.
The effort of both Ohio senators is commendable since it addresses an important aspect of the opioid epidemic, a public health issue that continues to affect this state and many others. If ever an issue demands politics be left at the door, it’s this one.
The bill’s signing came as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released new data showing Ohio had the second-highest death rate by drug overdose in the U.S. in 2016.
The bill passed just before Congress broke for the holidays, but may not have been approved as quickly without the push of Brown and Portman, and the support of the Fraternal Order of Police and the Buckeye State Sheriff’s Association.
An acronym for International Narcotics Trafficking Emergency Response by Detecting Incoming Contraband with Technology, the Interdict Act will provide $15 million to U.S. Customs and Border Protection to buy chemical screening devices that can detect deadly drugs such as fentanyl as they enter the United States.
China is the largest source of fentanyl, but the drug is often smuggled first to Mexico or Canada before it crosses the border into this country. It can sometimes be found on the internet and is often shipped by mail or other couriers but can be difficult to detect in small amounts.
Providing the border patrol with more screening devices and lab support should not only stop more fentanyl from coming into the U.S., it will also protect more agents in the field from exposure to dangerous substances.
The bill is no cure-all, of course, but it’s another step in the fight against opioid abuse and Ohio’s alarming overdose rate.
We can only hope our state and federal lawmakers continue to set politics aside and work together to help Ohio, and other states, get a handle on a problem that by all measures remains out of control.