Sat. May 18th, 2024

Congress Representative advocates for real solutions to the Fentanyl crisis

The Congresswoman spoke to her personal experience of losing loved ones to the crisis, highlighting the increase of Fentanyl overdoses in her district (7.25.23)

Media Release, Office of Congresswoman Stansbury:

Today, U.S. Representative Melanie Stansbury (N.M.-01) discussed the importance of reauthorizing the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) in an impassioned speech about the fentanyl crisis. During the Oversight hearing, the Congresswoman argued that ONDCP reauthorization should be a bipartisan effort to improve the efficacy of federal programs, reduce addiction, and save lives.

Rep. Stansbury began her statement by discussing her personal loss to the opioid crisis, saying, “I will never forget the morning in January in 2019, when I received the first call, I was actually sitting on the floor of the New Mexico State House of Representatives, I had just been elected to the legislature when I received the call that one of my oldest and dearest friends had died suddenly of a heart attack. We later learned that it was a fentanyl overdose. And over the years that have now come since that first call, there have been more. And I think for many New Mexicans, this is a story that is all too familiar.”

Calling out the real impact of holding partisan hearings instead of focusing on the issues that threaten our communities, Rep. Stansbury argued, “And we can sit here and yell about the border and talk about all of these issues, but if we’re not actually addressing the real issues that are leading to the crisis, then our family members and our friends are going to continue to die.”

Rep. Stansbury also highlighted misinformation around blaming asylum seekers for the influx of fentanyl, receiving confirmation from Doctor Rahul Gupta,

Director of the ONDCP, that raw materials to make fentanyl are being transported through legal ports of entry by crime syndicates and drug traffickers, not by individuals who are seeking asylum in this country.

Urging bipartisanship and seeking out the real cause of the influx, Congresswoman Stansbury ended her statement saying, “I think that the propagation of dangerous rhetoric against those from other countries who are seeking asylum in our country not only threatens the lives of those individuals who are trying to come to our country for a better life, like so many of our families did, but it also threatens the safety of our communities and our ability to address this crisis. So, let’s be honest with the American people, let’s be bipartisan, and let’s actually work to solve this problem.”

 

Rep. Stansbury’s full remarks as delivered are below:

Rep. Melanie Stansbury: Thank you, Dr. Gupta. Welcome to our committee. Mr. Chairman, I want to start by thanking you, sincerely, for convening this panel today. And I do mean that from the bottom of my heart, because I’ve watched as this committee has devolved into a platform for conspiracy theories and misinformation and political theater over the last six months. And I think it’s notable that many of our colleagues don’t even bother to show up when we hold a real hearing, and the conspiracy theories and cameras are not rolling. So it’s about high time that we actually turn to an issue that affects the American people. And I think like so many Americans, these issues of addiction, drug trafficking, weigh heavy on my heart.

Especially for so many New Mexicans, which is the state that I represent, the opioid crisis has hit close to home. And in fact, I will never forget the morning in January in 2019, when I received the first call. I was actually sitting on the floor of the New Mexico State House of Representatives. I had just been elected to the legislature when I received the call that one of my oldest and dearest friends had died suddenly of a heart attack. We later learned that it was a fentanyl overdose, and over the years that have now come since that first call, there have been more. And I think for many New Mexicans, this is a story that is all too familiar. And it is why I have spent a lot of my time in this body working on real solutions to address the Fentanyl crisis. Because it’s real, because it hits close to home, because it’s affecting every single family in our communities and in my state.

And we can sit here and yell about the border and talk about all of these issues, but if we’re not actually addressing the real issues that are leading to the crisis, then our family members and our friends are going to continue to die. That’s why I’ve been working with law enforcement, our state, local and tribal officials, our behavioral health providers, to help rebuild the behavioral health and addiction recovery systems that were gutted by a Republican governor just one cycle ago. We’re working to invest in the drug and addiction programs, the drug trafficking technologies and tools for our law enforcement, we’re helping to support the border intervention programs that help to stop the tide of those raw materials coming in, and actually helping those, whether they’re in the homes of their family members or loved ones, or living on the streets, actually connect with the care that they need to recover. That’s how we address this crisis. Not sitting in rooms screaming to cameras.

And so, Dr. Gupta, I’m grateful for your service, and I know that you understand that. And I’m grateful that President Biden has actually made this a priority and a centerpiece of his administration. And I think in spite of what we’ve heard here today, it’s important that the American people really understand that, and I wonder if you could just take a moment to help us understand how high a priority this is for the President and for your office, and how you are addressing the crisis?

Doctor Rahul Gupta, Director of  ONDCP: Thank you, Congresswoman. And I am deeply sorry for the loss. It is something that stays with me every day, every morning, I wake up this is something I think about. So it’s very personal to me. The President is extremely committed to this, I can tell you that this is his top priority. Not only is the President’s drug control strategy, completely data driven, and focused on getting resources and help to Americans, and in an evidence-based manner doing everything we can from both supply side and demand side, but he’s personally committed. I spoke to him this this week about this. This is how much committed he is. And so is the Vice President.

We brought in eight attorneys general last week to the White House to talk about it, and it’s important, it’s bipartisan, it’s part of the President’s Unity Agenda, and it is something that when a million Americans have passed away in the last two decades, and tens of millions have suffered a non-fatal overdose, I think we’ve got to find a way to work together on this and solve this problem.

Rep. Melanie Stansbury: Thank you, doctor. I also want to just take a moment to clarify and correct some misinformation that was shared just a few moments ago by one of my colleagues that is not only incorrect, but dangerous. Now Dr. Gupta, in New Mexico our law enforcement are very clear with us, the vast majority of raw materials that is used for the manufacturing of fentanyl is actually coming across legal ports of entry. Is that correct?

Doctor Rahul Gupta, Director of  ONDCP: That’s correct.

Rep. Melanie Stansbury: And the vast majority of those materials is actually being transported through those legal ports of entry by crime syndicates and drug traffickers, not by individuals who are seeking asylum in this country, correct?

Doctor Rahul Gupta, Director of  ONDCP: That’s correct.

Rep. Melanie Stansbury: Thank you. And you know, Dr. Gupta, and to my colleagues. I think that the propagation of dangerous rhetoric against those from other countries who are seeking asylum in our country not only threatens the lives of those individuals who are trying to come to our country for a better life, like so many of our families did, but it also threatens the safety of our communities and our ability to address this crisis. So let’s be honest with the American people. Let’s be bipartisan, and let’s actually work to solve this problem. And with that, I yield back.

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