Brown Urges DOJ to Distribute Funding to Protect Law Enforcement from Contact with Deadly Opioids in the Field

Training Program for Law Enforcement Created through Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) today wrote to the Department of Justice (DOJ) urging the agency to speed up the distribution of federal funding for the Comprehensive Opioid Abuse Grant Program, which provides funding to police departments to train first-responders as they deal with opioid related incidents. The program was created as part of the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA), which Brown supported.  

Brown’s letter follows an Ohio police officer’s accidental overdose after coming into contact with the deadly synthetic opioid fentanyl in the field.     

“Keeping our police officers safe and unharmed is a top priority for Congress, as we know it is for the Department of Justice.  As threats to our officers’ safety evolve, so must our responsibility to guard against those threats.  Congress, through creating the COAG program, has recognized the necessity of providing funding to our local law enforcement teams who are confronting the opioid crisis.  We strongly urge your office to move as swiftly as possible in making sure that this funding gets to the communities that need it most in Ohio and across the country,” Brown wrote in the letter.

Earlier this month, Brown announced more than $160 million in federal resources to combat the opioid crisis in states like Ohio that have been hardest hit by the epidemic as part of the government funding package agreed to in April.

In April, Brown announced that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released $26 million in grant funding to Ohio to bolster efforts to combat the opioid epidemic after he joined Senate colleagues in in a letter to President Trump calling for the release of critical resources that have been designated to address the nation’s opioid epidemic.

Brown urged Governor George “Sonny” Perdue, President Trump’s nominee to serve as the Secretary of U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), to continue USDA’s efforts to fight the opioid epidemic in Ohio communities. USDA has helped in the fight against opioids through its Rural Development grant programs, like the Community Facilities Program—which helps rural communities expand local resources like medical facilities and public safety services. Brown also supported a strong Rural Development title in the 2014 Farm Bill to provide economic support to rural communities.

Brown also worked with his colleagues Sens. Ed Markey (D-MA), Marco Rubio (R-FL), and Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) to introduce bipartisan legislation to help U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) keep the deadly synthetic opioid, fentanyl, out of the country. Brown’s bill, the INTERDICT Act, would provide CBP with additional high-tech screening equipment and lab resources to detect fentanyl before it enters the U.S. According to a report from the Ohio Department of Health, fentanyl-related overdose deaths in Ohio more than doubled from 503 in 2014 to 1,155 in 2015. Several state and national law enforcement organizations have endorsed Brown’s bill.

Last Congress, Brown introduced legislation that would address the opioid epidemic from prevention to recovery, filling in gaps that would help: boost prevention, improve tools for crisis response for those who fall through the cracks, expand access to treatment, and provide support for lifelong recovery.

A copy of the letter can be found below.

Dear Acting Director Trautman:

Nearly a year ago, Congress approved the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA), which created the Comprehensive Opioid Abuse Grant (COAG) program that is administered by your office, the Bureau of Justice Assistance. Grants administered under this program may be awarded to communities to support a wide range of programs dedicated to addressing the opioid epidemic, including the purchase of equipment and devices for first-responders to use in the field to protect themselves against these deadly drugs.  I want to thank the Department of Justice for your work thus far in implementing the COAG program to this point.  I write to encourage the continued expeditious administration of COAG program, so that we can get vital resources into our communities and into the hands of our dedicated public safety officers that are on the front lines in combatting the opioid epidemic.

Just this past Sunday night, an Ohio police officer suffered an accidental fentanyl overdose when he instinctively brushed a white residue from his shirt after returning to the police station following the arrest of a suspect.  It took four doses of an overdose reversal antidote to bring the officer back after his accidental contact with this deadly substance. Fortunately, the officer is expected to make a full recovery, but this incident serves as a stark reminder of the very real threat law enforcement officers face in dealing with the current opioid crisis.  Although, the officer followed proper opioid response protocol in making the arrest, resources and detection devices are available that could have lessened the risk posed to the officer during the initial encounter.  With the funds authorized under COAG, police departments will have the capacity to equip officers with these resources and devices.

Keeping our police officers safe and unharmed is a top priority for Congress, as I know it is for the Department of Justice.  As threats to our officers’ safety evolve, so must our responsibility to guard against those threats.  Congress, through creating the COAG program, has recognized the necessity of providing funding to our local law enforcement teams who are confronting the opioid crisis.  Thanks to the Department of Justice, many state and local law enforcement departments were notified of the COAG program and able to submit applications for COAG grants.  I strongly urge your office to continue the work you have done and move as swiftly as possible in making sure that this funding gets to the communities that need it most in Ohio and across the country.

Sincerely,

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