Hassan Pushes for More Federal Money to Help Police ID Opioids

May 7, 2019

Credit Peter Biello / NHPR

Senator Maggie Hassan and other lawmakers want to send more federal money to police to combat the opioid crisis.

A bill called the POWER Act would help state and local agencies buy portable electronic devices that screen and immediately identify chemicals including opioids and methamphetamines.

Hassan says right now, police have to rely on specific labs to identify the chemicals in seized substances, and it can take weeks to get results back.  

"One of the big challenges law enforcement, first responders and public health officials have had is knowing when a substance that looks like a white powder has fentanyl in it," she explained.

Hassan says rapid detection allows first responders to protect themselves from risky fentanyl contact, and "for public health officials to know when a particularly lethal batch has hit the streets in one of our communities."  

Over a year ago, President Trump signed the INTERDICT law to provide these screening devices to U.S. Customs and Border Patrol. In a hearing in April, the agency told Senator Hassan and other members of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee that the technology could transform drug interventions on the border, but it hasn’t yet bought the devices.