- Jim Otte I-Team Reporter
More help could be soon coming from Washington to fight the flow of illegal drugs into the Miami Valley. A bill backed by Sen. Sherrod Brown, D- Ohio, passed the U.S. House this week that provides more money and technology for customs agents to detect and intercept drug shipments at American ports.
In an interview with the I-Team, Brown said he is working with Sen. Rob Portman, R- Ohio, to stem the flow of drugs into the country.
"A lot of it is coming from China," Brown said, "And Senator Portman and I are teaming up to catch this in the Post Offices when it is mailed and to stop it at the border with detection equipment. We have the technology to do it, we don't have enough of the equipment to do it."
The proposal has the backing of Jodi Long, director of Treatment and Supportive Services at Montgomery County Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services.
"This is an extremely important move for the federal government, to look at how drugs come into the country and to put into regulations, (something ) that will really help with interdiction and help our law enforcement agencies across all of the states, across the nation as a whole," Long said.
Sen. Portman, meanwhile has been working with the US Postal Service to tighten controls on tracking foreign shipments to the states. An I-Team investigation early this year uncovered how some drug dealers were able to buy illegal drugs over the internet and have them shipped to vacant homes in local neighborhoods. The dealers were able to pick up the packages without being detected.
Long said she is hopeful the effort to block those shipments will be successful.
"I think any steps that we can make will be a success. Doing nothing has not helped us over the last couple of years in terms of the opiate epidemic and in terms of the amount of the fentanyl coming into the United States," Long said.
Earlier this week the incoming Commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Kevin McAleenan, told Sen. Brown that he will work to make sure agents have the proper equipment to intercept drug shipments.
Still, Brown said the Trump administration must do more.
"We lost more people in Ohio than any other state in the country in the last couple of years. We know that it's a serious public health problem. The President need to step up and do what he said he would do and that is declare a public health emergency," Brown said.