SPOKANE, Wash. - Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) spoke at the Spokane Regional Health District on Wednesday about the growing opioid crisis in Spokane and in the nation.
She was there to announce a new piece of legislation, called the Comprehensive Addiction Reform, Education and Safety Act, which she says would help combat the growing crisis.
The legislation would increase the government's oversight on companies which produce opioids by increasing the fines they get when they don't report where their drugs are going.
"What we are trying to do is catch the bad actors that might be getting involved in large scale black market opioid sales, but to do that we have to have a trail and to do that we need the reporting," said Sen. Cantwell.
The fines would increase ten-fold under the new bill. Currently companies are fined $10,000 for infractions and failure to report their distribution.
Sen. Cantwell says the infractions have led to communities getting flooded with opioids and companies getting flooded with profits.
According to federal data, Spokane County currently ranks the fourth worst for opioid and heroin fatalities. 82 people died from opioid overdoses in 2016.
Currently, 115 Americans fatally overdose on opioids each day. In 2016, 42,000 American died of an opioid overdose alone.
Between 1999 and 2014 the amount of opioid sales in the United States quadrupled.
Spokane law enforcement leaders were supportive of the Senator's proposal, saying something needs to be done.
"We could have the most arrests in the country and we could have the stiffest sentences for drug possession," said Spokane Police Chief Craig Meidl, "but that wouldn't make an impact if we don't staunch the flow of drugs into the community."
He says drug addiction in Spokane is what is spurring on the property crime in the area. He's hopeful this bill will help curtail the ability of opioid manufacturers to flood the market with drugs, making money off Spokane's and the country's most vulnerable as they do.
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