Long Island Officials Urge Passage of Bill to Combat Fentanyl Crisis

US Senator Kirsten Gillibrand speaks about the FEND Off Fentanyl Act, a bill that aims to empower law enforcement to better address the fentanyl epidemic locally. (Photo by Evan Miller/Long Island Press)

Long Island Officials Urge Passage of Bill to Combat Fentanyl Crisis

Long Island lawmakers, law enforcement officials, and advocates joined calls Tuesday for Congress to pass legislation that would declare fentanyl trafficking a national emergency to crack down on drug traffickers and increase prevention funding.

The Fentanyl Eradication and Narcotics Deterrence (FEND) Off Fentanyl Act would require President Joe Biden to sanction key members of transnational drug trafficking organizations and would require the Treasury Department to prioritize cracking down on fentanyl-related suspicious transactions. 

“No one deserves to die because of a drug they may not even know that they are taking and every life that is lost is a human tragedy,” said U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), a sponsor of the bill. “We need to do everything in our power to prevent these needless deaths and get fentanyl off our streets.”

Gillibrand said that locally, the bill would help stem the tide of fentanyl flowing into communities by giving more resources to law enforcement so police can trace the drug supply chains and shut them down.

Last year, 300 people died of drug overdoses in Nassau County, and fentanyl was involved in approximately 150 of those deaths, according to Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman.

The lethal drug is a silent killer that cannot be detected by taste, smell, or sight when mixed with other drugs, and it is 50 times stronger than heroin. In 2022, the Drug Enforcement Administration seized over 379 million doses of the synthetic opioid across the U.S., which is enough to supply a lethal dose to every American.

Steve Chassman, executive director of the Long Island Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, said the bill would allow fully-funded educational prevention initiatives to be added to every school.

“We need to beat this on demand and give people healthier coping strategies from kindergarten through 12th grade so that drugs from fentanyl to marijuana to alcohol do not become a viable coping strategy for people,” Chassman said.

Chassman added that it would allow for a massive increase in the number of clinicians that are working as part of nonprofit organizations to meet the state’s needs. Experts warned the crisis is not just a public health issue, but also a threat to national security..

“If a plane was shot out of the sky every day, killing 175 people, we would certainly declare a national emergency,” said Carole Trottere, a Long Island advocate whose son Alex died in 2018 due to fentanyl poisoning. “Well, fentanyl is that plane crash.”

She urged parents to talk with their children about the fentanyl crisis and educate them on the dangers of consuming drugs that they do not know the direct origins of.

“Last year on Long Island, there were over 500 deaths from fentanyl and opioids,” Trottere said. “That means over 1,000 parents became members of the club that nobody wants to join.”

She spoke about pharmaceutical labs in China that are sending the precursors used to make fentanyl and Mexican drug cartels profiting from the crisis.

“It’s blood money,” she said. “If we can’t appeal to their humanity, we must hit them where it hurts, and that’s what this bill will do. It will ultimately save lives and prevent one more parent from becoming a member of that club that nobody wants to join.”