In Wisconsin in 2016, over 1000 people lost their lives to opioid overdoses. In fact, this epidemic has overtaken auto crash fatalities as the number one killer in the nation. As a Member of Congress, I have a duty to press hard to find solutions – quickly – before more lose their families and their lives. As Co-Chair of the Congressional Addiction, Treatment, and Recovery Caucus, I've made fighting for solutions a top priority. There are things we can do to provide help for communities that are hit hard by the problem and things we can do to put up barriers and curb the availability for addicts to get ahold of the drugs.
In 2015, I was the primary sponsor of the House version of the landmark Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act. This Congress, I introduced the Stopping Overdoses of Fentanyl Analogues (SOFA) Act. I've been fortunate to team up with 5th District constituents who know this crisis firsthand. They have been invaluable in providing input as we work for real solutions. Pictured with me below are Dr. Tim Westlake, an emergency medical physician, and Lauri Badura, a mother who lost her son to the opioid epidemic.
Fentanyl is currently classified as a Schedule II controlled substance used to treat cancer patients. However, it is dangerous and can be lethal outside of the careful supervision of a doctor. Fentanyl abuse is one of the leading contributors to the opioid epidemic.
A new chemical compound, known as an analogue, is created by modifying one small piece of the chemical structure of fentanyl. These compounds fall into a legal loophole and contribute to the alarming rate of opioid-related deaths in the U.S. In fact, data from the Center for Disease Control (see below) indicates that synthetic opioids, which includes fentanyl and its analogues, are the leading cause of drug overdoses.
Analogue producers are likely to continue developing new variations, and law enforcement agencies must have the tools to adapt to these changes. Under current law, DEA scheduling practices are reactive in nature. Typically, fentanyl analogues are only scheduled after they have resulted in deaths across multiples states.
That's why I've introduced the SOFA Act, which will save lives by fighting the spread of fentanyl analogues. The SOFA Act closes the legal loophole by adding nineteen known fentanyl analogues to the Schedule I list. It also gives the DEA the authority to immediately schedule new fentanyl analogues as they are discovered, making enforcement and scheduling procedures more proactive.
The bill shares the acronym of an organization started by Oconomowoc, WI resident Lauri Badura, who lost her son Archie to an overdose in 2014. Shortly after, she founded the faith-based non-profit Saving Others for Archie, Inc. to raise awareness and fight the opioid epidemic.
Earlier this year, Lauri attended President Trump’s first State of the Union address as the guest of Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI), who has introduced the Senate Version of SOFA.
The full text of H.R. 4922, the Stopping Overdoses of Fentanyl Analogues Act is available here.