By JIM McCONVILLE
MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — U.S. Rep. Evan Jenkins, R-W.Va., has proposed a bill to create a multi-department federal task force to fight the fentanyl and heroin epidemic.
The bill, co-authored with Rep. Katherine Clark, D-Mass., was introduced in the House of Representatives Monday.
Titled the “Fentanyl and Heroin Task Force Act,” the legislation would create a multi-agency task force that would consist of members from Customs and Border Protection, the Drug Enforcement Agency, the FBI, Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations, the IRS, the International Trade Administration, the Office of National Drug Control Policy and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.
A highly addictive painkiller, fentanyl is 50 times stronger than heroin, according to the Drug Enforcement Agency. Fentanyl and heroin are sold alone or in combination with each other.
The task force would coordinate federal agency efforts to locate and dismantle organizations that traffic fentanyl, as well as identify the sources of fentanyl and heroin production and distribution, according to Jenkins.
The federal group would also work with state and local law enforcement agencies to share best practices for handling and disposing of fentanyl, provide updated information on targeting and taking down organizations that traffic fentanyl and heroin, and have operation and investigative support for these efforts.
Under the bill, the task force would provide Congress regular status reports on fentanyl and heroin trafficking in the U.S., and a summary of federal, state and local efforts to eradicate fentanyl and heroin trafficking. It would also provide recommendations for additional legislative action.
Jenkins said the bill will create an inter-agency task force specfically chartered to fight fentanyl and heroin.
“While steps have been taken to coordinate efforts at the federal level, there isn’t an inter-agency task force solely focused on eradicating fentanyl and heroin trafficking,” Jenkins said. “The crisis is deepening every day, and this needs to happen – and it needs to happen now.”
According to Jenkins, the task force will bring together federal agencies to ensure communication and resources are coordinated and targeted, all while working with state and local law enforcement.
“We can and must do more to give our law enforcement agencies the tools they need to stop fentanyl flowing from China and Mexico into our communities,” Jenkins said.
Jenkins is also a co-sponsor of legislation to repeal provisions of a bill that limits 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.
Jenkins participated on a roundtable with health care and law enforcement officials last week at Recovery Point, in Charleston. He said the bill is the outgrowth of that forum and several years of talking with law enforcement agencies
“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,” Jenkins 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.”
Staff writer Jim McConville can be reached at 304-263-8931, ext. 215, or Twitter@jmcconvilleJN.
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