U.S. Customs in Chicago cracks down on opioid shipments
Addiction to opioids, including fentanyl and other lethal synthetic drugs, may be a national epidemic, but stopping shipments from abroad is one part of the solution, according to Gov. Bruce Rauner.
New practices at Chicago International Mailing Facility to better detect packages containing opioids will be part of that battle, according to Rauner, who toured the facility this week with Lt. Gov. Evelyn Sanguinetti and Leo Schmitz, Illinois state police director.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection is employing the new practices at the mailing facility to halt the rush of opioid deliveries. Technologies such as Advanced Electronic Data and more sensitive screening tools are being used to thwart the shipments.
Curtailing the transportation of these drugs could help decrease the infiltration of these opioids into neighborhoods and communities, say experts.
“There is great urgency to curb the spread of the opioid epidemic as more Illinoisans die each year from overdoses,” Rauner said in a prepared statement. “These enhanced screening procedures will decrease the prevalence of opioids and fentanyl entering our communities. Collaboration amongst federal, state and local government is crucial to combat the projected increases in opioid-related deaths.”
The crackdown on the shipping of drugs is another weapon in the arsenal against the opioids. Rauner created the Opioid Overdose Prevention and Intervention Task Force in September, with Sanguinetti as co-chair. Dr. Nirav Shah, the director of the Illinois Department of Public Health, will work with her.
“As our task force moves rapidly to implement our Opioid Action Plan and curb the growing opioid overdose epidemic in Illinois, we are fortunate to have strong federal partners like U.S. Customs and Border Protection, who are doing everything they can to keep deadly narcotics off our shores and out of our state,” Sanguinetti said. “This epidemic knows no neighborhood, no color and no class … it will take all of us working together to curb this deadly scourge.”
The push against the drugs comes as the problem grows worse in Illinois. Neary 2,000 people in the state died of opioid-related overdoses in 2016, according to state officials. The Illinois Department of Public Health projects annual deaths could reach 2,700 by 2020 if nothing more is done to address the issue.
One of the major issues is that synthetics, such as fentanyl, are fueling the meteoric jump in overdose deaths. Compared to heroin, fentanyl is 50 times more potent. A dose equivalent to 3 grains of salt is lethal for an average-sized person, health officials said.
Some 82 fentanyl shipments were seized by customs officials at the Chicago IMF in 2016. That’s the second highest seizure, after New York. The vast majority of the fentanyl packs come from Hong Kong and China, according to customs officials.