Higgins and Walker Opening Statements at Opioid Crisis Joint Subcommittee Hearing

WASHINGTON – Subcommittee on Border Security, Facilitation, and Operations Ranking Member Clay Higgins (R-La.) and Subcommittee on Intelligence and Counterterrorism Ranking Member Mark Walker (R-N.C.), today delivered opening statements at a joint subcommittee hearing entitled “Homeland Security Implications of the Opioid Crisis.”

Higgins’ full statement:

Thank you Chairman Rose and Chairwoman Rice for calling this hearing today.
More than 130 Americans die every day after overdosing on opioids.  In my home state of Louisiana 400 lives were lost just last year alone.

Addiction does not always start with illicit substance abuse, many Americans become hooked after receiving a prescription for temporary pain relief.  Once their prescription expires, some turn to the streets.  Others become addicted and even overdose when illegal drugs they buy on the street are, unbeknownst to them, laced with fentanyl, an opioid about 100 times stronger than morphine.

The pandemic has also affected innocent newborn children.  A study published in the Journal of Addiction Medicine shows more than a 500 percent increase in the number of children that are addicted to opioids at birth in the United States.  This equates to an addicted child born every 15 minutes.

We need to get these drugs off the street and find Constitutionally sound legal ways to lower prescription practices.  Today we have the opportunity to hear more about the impact of opioids on our communities and the gaps in our enforcement capability.

Synthetic opioids such as fentanyl are being produced illegally in large quantities, mostly in China, but also increasingly in Mexico. Most opioids enter the United States through the mail, concealed within vehicles or cargo coming through the ports of entry, and in backpacks of cartel drug runners.

To ensure the speedy movement of commerce that powers our economy, Customs and Border Protection can only X-Ray or utilize drug sniffing dogs for a fraction of the mail, packages, vehicles, and trucks that enter our international mail facilities and cross the border every day.

To combat this, we must enhance security capabilities at our international mail facilities, ports of entry, and along the border.

In addition, we must increase the detection capabilities of law-enforcement, on every level. Action to address this crisis will require Federal, State, Local, and Tribal governments to work together.

Finally, we must hit the cartels.  Further resources need to be dedicated to our law enforcement agencies that investigate money laundering, bulk cash smuggling, and other methods that are used by drug cartels to conceal cash.
I look forward to the testimony from our witnesses today, thank you for being here, and I yield back.

Walker’s full statement:

I want to thank Chairman Rose, Chairwoman Rice and Ranking Member Higgins, for holding this important joint hearing on the opioid crisis, which knows no social status and has no party affiliation. I look forward to hearing from our distinguished panel on ways we can assist in their ongoing efforts in combating this crisis.

Today, we hope to gain insight in how the Department of Homeland Security is supporting our state and local agencies who are working on the front lines to identify and treat the ongoing opioid crisis. 

Back in 2017, I went on a two-day, seven stop opioid crisis tour across North Carolina to better understand the full scope of the opioid epidemic.  I received a firsthand account of the realities, burdens and struggles my fellow North Carolinians face every day. In my Congressional District, deaths related to fentanyl increased 195 percent between 2016 and 2017 from 64 fatalities to 189 fatalities.   Across North Carolina, it is rare for a day to go by without news of an arrest for opioid distribution, reports of overdose deaths, or first responders providing critical life-saving aid. 

I want to highlight the work at the Guilford County Emergency Services led by Director Jim Albright.  They have partnered with a number of state and local agencies to develop the Guilford County Solutions To the Opioid Problem (GCSTOP).  GCSTOP works to provide rapid response services to individuals who have overdosed or at risk of overdosing.  From March 2018 to April 2019, CGSTOP administered 1,661 doses of Naloxone, performed 447 rescues from overdoses and provided treatment to 157 patients.  I am greatly encouraged by this effort and am interested to hear from the witnesses today if they have recommendations on how to duplicate programs like GCSTOP across the country. 

I want to especially thank Deputy Chief James Hinson of the Greensboro North Carolina Police Department for testifying today.  Your testimony will offer us an on-the-ground perspective on what local police are dealing with every day related to opioids.  The successes that Chief Wayne Scott, Deputy Chief Hinson, and all of the Greensboro Police Department have accomplished has been nothing short of incredible.  I have enjoyed working with you in the past and I am proud the Committee will be able to hear your first-hand-account on what has been done to help our home state.

Today’s hearing is an opportunity to better understand the threat facing law enforcement and communities across the United States.  As legislators, we must continue to work in a bipartisan fashion to address the opioid crisis.  I look forward to the panel’s insight as to what is working well and recommendations for what work could be done better. 

I want to thank all the witnesses for appearing here today and I yield back the balance of my time. 

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