Senators Introduce Bruce’s Law to Help Combat Deadly Fentanyl Epidemic
U.S. Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), joined by Senators Dan Sullivan (R-AK) and Maggie Hassan (D-NH), today introduced Bruce’s Law.
Bruce’s Law – named after a young Alaskan, Robert “Bruce” Snodgrass, who passed away from a fentanyl overdose in 2021 – will bolster federal prevention and education efforts surrounding the dangers of drugs laced with fentanyl, an incredibly powerful and deadly synthetic opioid. It also authorizes new Community-Based Coalition Enhancement grants to help educate young people about the risks of street drugs laced with fentanyl. This would allow Drug-Free Communities Coalitions to access new funding focused on fentanyl to try to curb its use.
Robert “Bruce” Snodgrass, namesake of Bruce’s Law.
June 4, 1999 – October 26, 2021
Murkowski spoke about Bruce’s Law yesterday on the Senate floor. Sandy Snodgrass, Bruce’s Mom, watched from the Senate gallery, as did Michael Troster, Alaska’s HITDA Director, and Kim Kovol, Special Assistant to Alaska Governor Mike Dunleavy on the People’s First Initiative.
“We cannot stand idly by and allow the fentanyl epidemic to wreak havoc on individuals, families, and communities across our state,” Senator Murkowski said. “The passing of Bruce Snodgrass was heartbreaking and all too familiar. I continue to read headline after headline in our local press – and directly from Alaskans who are impacted – about the fentanyl crisis intensifying. We also know that we’re not alone, that this is a national crisis, and that we need to do more. We have an opportunity to help change that through this legislation. I thank advocates like Sandy Snodgrass and all of the individuals who helped us craft this bill, and urge my colleagues to swiftly take up and pass it.”
“Fentanyl kills more Americans than any other drug, and it takes only a small amount to cause to a fatal overdose. As more fentanyl is being mixed into illicit drugs, it’s important that all Americans are aware of the prevalence of fentanyl and the danger it poses,” said Senator Feinstein. “This bill will help expand awareness campaigns and create a more coordinated federal interagency effort to reduce overdose deaths.”
Click here for video of Senator Murkowski’s floor statement.
“On October 26, 2021, my 22-year-old son, Bruce, died by fentanyl poisoning in Anchorage, Alaska. Since that day, I have learned that the amount of fentanyl that it takes to kill you can sit on the tip of a pencil. Since that day, I have learned that drug overdose, largely due to fentanyl poisoning, is the leading cause of death for Americans aged 18-45. Since that day, I have learned that all illicit drugs in this country need to be suspected of being poisoned by fentanyl. Since that day, I have learned that Bruce was one of nearly 108,000 Americans that died of a drug overdose in 2021, with the majority of deaths due to fentanyl poisoning. Since that day, I have learned that the CDC reports to date in 2022, an American dies every 5 minutes of a drug overdose. Since that day, my sole purpose has been, and will continue to be, to raise awareness and provide education to stem the death toll that Fentanyl poisoning is wreaking in our country. Today, I ask all members of Congress to stand with Senator Murkowski, Senator Feinstein, Senator Sullivan and Senator Hassan in support of Bruce’s Law, and to join us in raising awareness and providing education to as many Americans as we can reach, as quickly as we can reach them. Time is not on our side!” said Sandy Snodgrass, Bruce’s Mom.
“I want to thank Senator Murkowski and Senator Feinstein for their efforts in creating federal legislation regarding the Fentanyl Crisis. This highly lethal synthetic opioid is a scourge plaguing Alaska, as well as nationwide. We know that in a national survey, 59% of youth aged 13-24 hadn’t heard of fentanyl and only 37% believed that fentanyl was dangerous. During 2020-2021, EMS in Alaska responded to 58 suspected overdoses among people aged 0-19 years. Youth need to know opioids ‘hack and whack’ the brain. Opioids ‘rewire’ the circuits in the brain to assign ‘supreme’ value and use of opioids versus health, family, school and work. I believe our youth will make better and healthier choices if they have the necessary information about substances, especially with the acute danger of fentanyl. I strongly urge that ‘upstream primary prevention and drug education’ be an important strategy in Bruce’s Law. This prevention and drug education needs to be current, accurate and honest. Finally, regarding fentanyl, it is not an overdose, which infers too much. But a poisoning, because it only takes 2 mg, which can fit on the end of a pencil! I am in full support of Bruce’s Law to saves lives. We have to cut the flow off into the river of addiction and overdoses. We cannot wait any longer,” said Michael Carson, Vice President & Recovery Specialist at MyHouse of Mat-Su and Chair of Mat-Su Opioid Task Force.
“I’m writing this with a broken heart, an utterly devastated soul, a comment no mother should ever have to write. With tears in my eyes and pleading in my heart I am begging you to do everything within your power to put a stop to this senseless murder of our American children. I fully support the education and resources that Bruce’s Law will bring to our young Americans. You see, I lost my son, Taegge D. Lee on July 15, 2021 to fentanyl poisoning, in other words he was murdered. He was 21 years old, he went to bed and never woke up. We never got to say goodbye, never got a last hug or to tell him just how much we love him and how proud we were of him. Taegge was not a junkie! He was working at an air service in Alaska, had his own home and was saving money for another trip. He was a productive member of society, he was not a thief, he was not lazy, he was a lover of art, poetry, music and nature. He traveled the world with his last adventure taking him to Bali by himself. Sadly, that was his last trip. Please pass Bruce’s Law so no other family has to suffer this extreme loss,” said Julie Bouchard of Palmer, Alaska, Taegge’s Mom.
Summary of Bruce’s Law:
- Authorizes the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to launch a public education and awareness campaign focused on the dangers of drugs that could be contaminated with fentanyl, drug prevention, and detection of early warning signs of addiction among youth.
- Authorizes the Secretary of HHS to establish a Federal Interagency Working Group on Fentanyl Contamination of illegal drugs, which would:
- Consult with experts, including family members, youth, and individuals working toward recovery, to help develop opportunities to improve responses to the incidence of drug overdose by fentanyl-contaminated drugs.
- Study all federal efforts to prevent and minimize drug overdose by fentanyl-contaminated drugs, and make suggestions to better educate school-aged children and youth on the dangers of drugs contaminated by fentanyl.
- Authorizes new Community-Based Coalition Enhancement Grants to educate young people on the risks of drugs contaminated with fentanyl.
Last summer, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) issued its first Public Safety Alert in six years, warning Americans about the availability of fake prescription pills containing fentanyl and methamphetamine. DEA’s alert comes in the wake of a significant rise in overdoses and deaths being caused by counterfeit drugs being mass-produced by criminal drug networks that contain fentanyl.
DEA also documented a dramatic increase in its seizures of pills containing illicit fentanyl over the past two years. The agency seized more than 9.5 million counterfeit pills in every state during 2021—more counterfeit pills than were seized in 2019 and 2020 combined. According to DEA, “a deadly dose of fentanyl is small enough to fit on the tip of a pencil.”
Illicit fentanyl is powerful, easily made, and easy to transport, making it a popular and profitable narcotic for drug traffickers. Many school-aged children and youth are not aware that the illegal drugs they are using – including heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine, or benzodiazepines – are now statistically likely to contain a deadly dose of fentanyl.
Drug overdose deaths caused by counterfeit drugs contaminated by fentanyl are affecting communities all over Alaska. According the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services, fentanyl accounted for approximately 49 percent of all drug overdoses in the state in 2020. The Mat-Su Valley has been particularly hit hard by this epidemic, and many parents who have lost their children to street drugs contaminated with fentanyl are speaking out. Recently, in mid-March, a “lethal batch of heroin” laced with fentanyl caused sixth deaths and 17 overdose emergencies in the Valley.