WASHINGTON — U.S. Rep. Evan Jenkins, R-W.Va., introduced legislation Monday to improve federal agencies’ response toward fentanyl and heroin trafficking.
The Fentanyl and Heroin Task Force Act would result in the creation of a unit of officials from multiple agencies, including the Drug Enforcement Administration, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and the FBI, that will coordinate efforts to stop the trade, production and distribution of these drugs.
The task force will also be responsible for communicating with local and state agencies to share resources and provide support.
Jenkins said in a phone call with reporters the Fentanyl and Heroin Task Force will be the first of its kind on this issue.
“It is with a laser focus on the fentanyl and heroin crisis,” he said.
Fentanyl is a highly addictive painkiller. According to the DEA, it is 50 times more potent than heroin and both are sold alone or in combination with each other.
Jenkins’ announcement comes after a roundtable he held last week with health care and law enforcement officials at Recovery Point in Charleston regarding ways the federal government could address the unhealthy use of these drugs.
The congressman said Monday he has been in contact with the DEA and other federal agencies since taking office in January 2015, and this legislation is reflective of last week’s forum and years of communication with multiple bodies.
“We know the federal government and federal agencies have rallied around other issues of importance, and this issue is second to none in the sense of urgency,” he said. “It’s life and death, and it needs the attention of every federal agency to make sure they are at the table, sharing best practices and sharing best information.
“What we don’t want to happen is federal agencies being siloed. While every agency may say this is a problem and a crisis, which it certainly is, the real question also is are they working across agency lines to make sure the right hand knows what the left hand is doing.”
Massachusetts Rep. Katherine Clark, one of the bill’s original co-sponsors, said in a press release this is a proposal to combine resources and protect communities.
“This devastation calls on all of us, at every level of government, healthcare, and law enforcement, to push for resources our families need to prevent another death,” said Clark, a Democrat.
Jenkins is also one of the co-sponsors of a bill to repeal provisions of a bill that limited the DEA’s authority. The legislation was introduced following an investigation by the Washington Post and CBS’ “60 Minutes” into the effects of the revolving door between the DEA and the drug industry.