(ICE photo)

HSI, CBP Update Congress on ‘Vigorous’ Efforts to Combat Opioid Crisis

The House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Oversight and Management Efficiency held a hearing Tuesday exploring ways to combat the opioid crisis with Department of Homeland Security officials on the ground in Harrisburg, Pa.

The hearing, “Opioids in the Homeland: DHS Coordination with State and Local Partners to Fight the Epidemic,” discussed DHS’ efforts to both stop the flow of illegal opioids into American communities and dismantle criminal networks responsible for drug trafficking, according to a statement from DHS.

“The opioid epidemic poses a unique challenge for federal, state, and local officials,” said subcommittee Chairman Scott Perry (R-Pa.) in his opening statement.

The ease of access to these drugs via physician prescriptions and the growing use of e-commerce mean drug traffickers are getting more creative in their methods of distribution, abusing the internet and Postal Service. These new challenges “underscore the importance of understanding and reinforcing the relationship between federal entities and state and local officials in order to create a force multiplier to tackle this devastating and deadly epidemic,” Perry said.

Among the panelists who provided testimony were Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Director of Field Operations, Baltimore, Casey Durst and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations Special Agent in Charge, Philadelphia, Marlon Miller.

HSI and CBP have been working to disrupt drug trafficking into the United States.

In Philadelphia, the HSI team is leading a cyber crimes investigations task force aimed at stopping online drug trafficking. Most notably, the task force arrested a high-scale domestic reshipper for a Chinese trafficking organization near Philadelphia, as well as dismantled a large dark-web organization that operated one of the largest clandestine fentanyl tableting laboratories in Philadelphia.

“HSI is committed to battling the U.S. opioid crisis,” Miller said in his submitted testimony. “HSI will continue to vigorously pursue the cartels that bring not only heroin and fentanyl to the U.S., but other narcotics that have a dangerous, and too often deadly, impact on our communities.”

And CBP is engaged in the interdiction of terrorists, narcotics, weapons and currency. It works alongside local police forces and the Pennsylvania State Police on a number of opioid-related issues.

“As America’s unified border agency, CBP plays a critical role in preventing illicit narcotics, including opioids, from reaching the American public,” Durst said in her written testimony.

This hearing comes amid multiple House bills addressing the opioid crisis. The House has passed a number of bills addressing the trafficking of opioids, as well as addiction and recovery efforts, over the past week.

One such bill would require that Secretary of Health Human Services Alex Azar create a database to facilitate data collection related to opioid abuse. Another, dubbed “Jessie’s Law,” would require information about a patient’s opioid addiction be logged in certain medical records.

The House had 21 more opioid-related bills on its calendar this week.

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