December 19, 2019

Moulton’s Fentanyl Sanctions Act, Mental Health Care Plan for Troops To Be Signed Into Law

Bill that targets producers of synthetic opioids, and plan to provide mental health check ups to active duty service members included in the National Defense Authorization Act

WASHINGTON — Tomorrow, at approximately 7:20 pm, President Trump will sign the National Defense Authorization Act into law at a ceremony at Andrews Air Force Base. The defense bill includes the text of Rep. Seth Moulton’s Fentanyl Sanctions Act, a bill he co-led with Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-FL), and a plan Moulton wrote to provide every active duty service member returning from an overseas deployment with a mental health check-up.

“Fentanyl is killing us, and China’s producing it. We need to stop it yesterday,” Moulton said. “I worked hard to include this in the defense bill, and I’m glad that it’s now law.”

Moulton and Buchanan introduced the The Fentanyl Sanctions Act in April.

Specifically, The Fentanyl Sanctions Act would:

  • Impose sanctions on foreign manufacturers of synthetic opioids that knowingly send those drugs to drug traffickers and other criminal operations.
  • Authorize $600 million in funding for law enforcement to combat the trafficking of opioids across the globe.
  • Create a new federal commission to combat synthetic opioid trafficking that will include the Administrator of the Drug Enforcement Agency, Secretary of Homeland Security, Secretary of Defense, Secretary of the Treasury and the Secretary of State.

Earlier this year, Moulton and Buchanan wrote an op-ed in The Hill calling for the bill’s passage before the president negotiates an end to the trade war with China. China is the source of 80 percent of the world’s fentanyl, and China’s leaders have chosen not to crack down on domestic fentanyl production to use future enforcement as a negotiating tool in the trade war. As Moulton noted in the op-ed, “China has an especially poor record of taking on fentanyl producers. Between 2015 and 2016, American authorities intercepted 1,072 shipments of Chinese fentanyl before they could reach our streets. In the same time period, China stopped just four.”

Fentanyl is 50 times more potent than heroin and 100 times more potent than morphine, and China’s failure to combat opioid production kills Americans. In Massachusetts, the opioid-related overdose death rate has tripled in four years from 691 to 1,990, and fentanyl has overtaken prescription drugs and heroin as the leading cause of opioid-overdose deaths.

According to The New York Times, since 2013, U.S. overdose deaths related to fentanyl and similar substances have skyrocketed from 3,000 to 28,000. WBUR reported earlier this year that overdose deaths fell 11 percent in the first six months of 2019, but the rate is still near its highest point ever, and fentanyl is present in 92 percent of the overdose deaths in Massachusetts.

The bill’s passage is one piece of a larger effort to prevent overdose deaths in the Commonwealth. This year Moulton worked with the state’s congressional delegation to secure a $35.8 million grant that will help the state track overdose data and respond to overdose deaths like a public health emergency such as the EEE outbreak that killed four people in the state over the summer and fall. The grant also funded local health and law enforcement intervention efforts.

Opioid overdoses have killed more Americans than the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Vietnam, combined. Veterans are twice as likely as nonveterans to die from an accidental overdose. Moulton has introduced a package of three bills that would allow the VA to study and discuss cannabis use as an alternative to opioid treatments. The bills would also prevent veterans who use cannabis in the states where it is legal from losing their VA benefits when they test positive for cannabis use.

In May, Moulton became one of the first federal-level leaders to make a call for the state to create supervised injection facilities in Massachusetts. Earlier this month Moulton followed up on that call with an issue-by-issue rebuttal of myths about supervised injection facilities in CommonWealth Magazine and called on Governor Baker and other state leaders to take decisive action by legalizing the sites.

He wrote, “If a stadium the size of the Garden were under attack, if one of our small towns disappeared, or if a foreign nation or infectious disease like Ebola wiped out an entire American city, we wouldn’t hesitate to respond decisively. But addiction is also a disease – it’s killing our friends and neighbors – and we need decisive leadership to stop it...I urge the governor and all of our state lawmakers to lead decisively and authorize supervised injection facilities in Massachusetts. It’s an opportunity for our Commonwealth to lead on health care again. And, most importantly, it will save lives.”

MILITARY MENTAL HEALTH CARE PLAN ALSO BECOMING LAW

In addition to addressing the opioid epidemic, Moulton has taken a leading role in Congress on mental health care policy since disclosing earlier this year that he was managing Post Traumatic Stress from his service in Iraq.

He introduced legislation this year to designate 988 as the national mental health emergency line. Last week, the FCC voted unanimously to authorize the number. The Senate also marked-up companion legislation to Moulton’s bill, two major steps forward for Moulton’s bill.

The congressman also amended the defense bill to include mandatory mental health check ups for active-duty service members returning from an overseas deployment. This plan will also be signed into law Friday as part of The National Defense Authorization Act. Starting in Fiscal Year 2020, every service member who is deployed overseas will be required to receive a mental health check up within 21 days of returning home.

Moulton inserted this plan and several others that will benefit the region into the defense bill using his seat on the House Armed Services Committee, which writes the bill. He also helped secure the bill’s passage after Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi appointed him to the committee of lawmakers that negotiate a final draft of The National Defense Authorization Act.