SARASOTA, Fla. (WWSB)--Congressman Vern Buchanan (R-Longboat Key) is co-sponsoring legislation to increase monitoring of the U.S. Postal Service for deadly opioids.
The Synthetics Trafficking and Overdose Prevention Act (STOP) is awaiting hearings in three House committees. The measure would require foreign shipments through our postal system to provide electronic advance data—such as who and where it is coming from, who it is going to, and what is in it—before they cross our borders and enter the U.S
Chuck Madden of Sarasota recalls when he first heard about the drug fentanyl and carfentanil.
"Three grains of this stuff can kill you," Madden said. "The heroin will kill you maybe. The fentanyl has a better chance of killing you. The carfentanil will kill you almost every time. Yet the addicts--the addition is so strong--that they will chase where the overdoses are occurring--which makes no sense."
Madden is a former alcoholic who now dedicates his life to counseling others about the dangers of substance abuse.
"As an alcoholic if you told me there was a bar that was selling vodka that would maybe kill you, I wouldn't go there. Tell these guys a bad batch of heroin is on the streets up there, they get in a car and flood to it which makes no sense."
Sarasota Police Lt. Demetri Konstantopoulos has been trying to get drugs off the streets of Sarasota for the past 19 years, but as of last Summer--it just got more difficult.
"The heroin problem we're seeing is epidemic," Lt. Konstantopoulos said. "It [fentanyl & carfentanil] just exacerbates a problem that we've seen over the past couple years. Our stats in the city of Sarasota, since July '16 we've had 98 overdoses, and of these numbers are increasing in every jurisdiction, not just here in Sarasota. We have seen in the last couple weeks an uptick in overdoses and it appears fentanyl is the culprit."
Much of it is flooding in through generic packages in the U.S.mail from China.
That's why Congressman Buchanan is co-sponsoring a bill that would require more extensive screening for drugs coming in through the U.S. Postal Service.
"People are dying from drug overdoses on our coast," Rep. Buchanan said. "FedEx and UPS does a good job stopping a lot of these drugs, but the postal service has not done as well of a job."
Lt. Konstantopoulos supports the assistance at the federal level to crack down on trafficking.
"It's imperative we do something like that, we have to protect the homeland, we have to protect our citizens in the U.S., in Sarasota," Lt. Konstantopoulos said. "We can't let outside entities ship this poison in and turn killing our people, it has to stop and we need to pull out the stops."
Madden is also closely monitoring the progress of the legislation.
"I love what Vern is doing, he's taking a proactive position up in Washington because of where he's representing: We have one of the highest death rates in the United States, right here," Madden said.
However Madden still wishes more could be done to get at the root of the problem, not just the result.
"We need to fund the legislation from last summer that puts more money into treatment and prevention. But we're putting so much emphasis on the addict and the criminal justice of this, that we aren't getting much education to the kids, they don't know."
For now, Madden's glad to hear efforts are underway to stem the flow of opioids coming in through the U.S. mail.
"Anything anybody is doing to stop one bag...from getting on to our streets is a good thing."