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Senator Brown in Toledo to tout anti-fentanyl act

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    U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D., Ohio) urges Pres. Donald Trump to sign bipartisan legislation out of Ohio during a press conference at the Lucas County Emergency Management building in Toledo.

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    Lucas County Sheriff John Tharp and U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D., Ohio) urges Pres. Donald Trump to sign bipartisan legislation out of Ohio during a press conference at the Lucas County Emergency Management building in Toledo.

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    Law enforcement and medical personnel listen as U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D., Ohio) urges Pres. Donald Trump to sign bipartisan legislation out of Ohio during a press conference at the Lucas County Emergency Management building in Toledo.

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    From left: Dr. Neeraj Kanwal, senior vice president of Behavioral Health for ProMedica, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D., Ohio) and Lucas County Sheriff John Tharp urge Pres. Donald Trump to sign bipartisan legislation out of Ohio during a press conference at the Lucas County Emergency Management building in Toledo. THE BLADE/LORI KING

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    U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D., Ohio) urges Pres. Donald Trump to sign bipartisan legislation out of Ohio during a press conference at the Lucas County Emergency Management building in Toledo. THE BLADE/LORI KING

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U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D., Ohio) came to Toledo Friday to stand with area law enforcement and medical professionals to urge President Trump to sign his bill to help block the illegal flow of the synthetic opioid fentanyl into the United States.

Senator Brown’s bill, the INTERDICT Act, passed the Republican-controlled House in October and unanimously passed the Republican-controlled Senate in December.

He said President Trump is expected to sign the bill as soon as Friday or early next week.

VIDEO: Sherrod Brown visits Toledo

“We have the technology. We simply don’t have the resources yet. This bill provides $15 million to come up with the resources to detect fentanyl,” Mr. Brown said. “It’ll support hundreds of these screening devices.”

The bill authorizes $15 million for equipment used by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, including new screening devices, laboratory equipment, facilities, and personnel for around-the-clock lab support.

The equipment is for ports of entry and mail and express consignment facilities, as well as fixed chemical screening devices for customs laboratories. It also pays for making scientists available during all operational hours to interpret screening test results from the field.

According to Mr. Brown, providing CBP with more screening devices will protect more agents in the field from exposure to dangerous substances.

He cited a report last month by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that showed Ohio had 39.1 overdose deaths per 100,000 people in 2016, nearly double the national overdose death rate of 19.8 deaths per 100,000, and the second highest rate in the country. The sharp increase from 2015 was blamed in large part on fentanyl — a powerful synthetic opioid about 50 times more potent than heroin and 100 times more potent than morphine.

Mr. Brown was joined by Lucas County Sheriff John Tharp; Dr. Neeraj Kanwal, senior vice president of Behavioral Health for ProMedica, and Dr. Tufal Khan, chief medical officer at the Mercy Health Behavioral Health Institute, at the news event in the Lucas County Emergency Management Agency.

Sheriff Tharp said fentanyl is dangerous and potentially fatal to law enforcement, who sometimes can by accidentally stuck by a needle when searching behind sofa cushions or in suspects’ pockets.

Dr. Kanwal said fentanyl is valuable in the emergency room but dangerous on the streets.

“It only takes micrograms to cause an overdose, to cause respiratory depression, and death. We know it’s destroying families every day. This is the right tool at the right time,” Dr. Kanwal said.

The legislation puts the Congress on record as insisting that the customs and border protection agency buys the equipment, even though the Trump administration didn’t include it in their budget.

“They have so much to do at border patrol. It’s an administration that I think puts its emphasis at other places sometimes. I don’t know the administration has stepped up the way they should on opioids,” Senator Brown said.

The legislation is endorsed by the Ohio Fraternal Order of Police and the Buckeye State Sheriff’s Association.

Contact Tom Troy at tomtroy@theblade.com419-724-6058, or on Twitter @TomFTroy.

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