During the Event, the Congresswoman Highlighted Her Bipartisan POWER Act, Which Would Make sure Local Law Enforcement Departments have Tools to Detect Fentanyl & Save Lives
WOODBRIDGE, Va. — On Friday, U.S. Rep. Abigail Spanberger spoke alongside the Prince William County Police Department to discuss the fentanyl crisis in Virginia — as well as steps she is taking in the U.S. House to make sure law enforcement has the tools it needs to detect fentanyl and prevent overdoses.
Specifically, they discussed Spanberger’s Providing Officers with Electronic Resources (POWER) Act, which she introduced last month. The bipartisan POWER Act would establish a new U.S. Department of Justice grant program to help state and local law enforcement organizations secure high-tech, portable screening devices — which are already used by federal law enforcement to identify illicit drugs at U.S. ports of entry. These devices use laser technology to analyze potentially harmful substances — even through some packaging — and identify those substances based on a library of thousands of compounds that are categorized within the device.
During the event held at Sentara Northern Virginia Medical Center, Spanberger also led a roundtable discussion with Virginia leaders, community services boards, treatment center representatives, and healthcare providers to discuss what they are seeing on the ground as the substance use disorder crisis continues. Additionally, they shared stories of Virginians who have been impacted by the substance use crisis — and they provided feedback on workforce shortages facing addiction, treatment, and recovery programs in the region.
“I come to this issue from a few different perspectives — one of them being my background as a former federal law enforcement officer and CIA case officer. As someone who worked narcotics cases and tracked cartels, I’m deeply concerned about the threats posed by fentanyl,” said Spanberger during the event. “The POWER Act would create a new grant program — one that would help local police departments, like the Prince William County Police Department, secure high-tech screening devices to detect fentanyl.”
Spanberger added, “I want to thank the Prince William County Police Department for their support of this bipartisan bill. I’m also proud that community healthcare providers — including Sentara — understand the urgent need for a stronger push to detect and stop fentanyl from making it to Virginia’s streets… We need to prioritize an approach that gives law enforcement the tools they need — while also making sure our treatment and recovery professionals have the support they deserve.”
“I want to thank Representative Spanberger and the other bipartisan Members of Congress who are supporting this legislation. This is bipartisan legislation — which means that this is commonsense legislation — that needs to be passed to help local law enforcement. As Representative Spanberger said, Prince William County — like other jurisdictions in the Commonwealth of Virginia and across the country — is facing an increasing number of fentanyl overdoses and also fentanyl-related deaths. This is a critical step forward for law enforcement, and it will be a critical step forward for Prince William County. I want to thank Representative Spanberger for being the lead on this…and I hope the rest of the country will see that this is commonsense legislation and that it will pass very quickly,” said Peter Newsham, Chief of Police, Prince William County Police Department.”
During the event’s press conference, Spanberger and Newsham were joined by Nedra Moncrief-Craig, System Director, Behavioral Health Services, Sentara Health and Andrea Bailey, Potomac District Supervisor, Prince William County Board of Supervisors. Click here to watch their full comments.
And during the subsequent roundtable discussion on the substance use disorder crisis, they were joined by representatives from Sentara Health, the University of Virginia, Rappahannock Area Community Services Board, Potomac Health Foundation, Rappahannock Rapidan Community Services, and Youth For Tomorrow.
Spanberger’s POWER Act is endorsed by the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP), National Association of Police Organizations (NAPO), National Sheriff’s Association, Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association (FLEOA), Sergeants Benevolent Association (SBA), Major County Sheriffs of America, National Tactical Officers Association (NTOA), National District Attorney’s Association (NDAA), and National HIDTA Directors Association.
Spanberger has consistently worked to tackle the opioid epidemic and substance abuse crisis, support recovery services, and block deadly drugs — including illicit fentanyl — from entering Virginia’s communities, including:
- Strengthening Virginia’s addiction prevention, treatment, and recovery services. In December 2022, President Biden signed into law Spanberger’s bipartisan Summer Barrow Prevention, Treatment, and Recovery Act, which provides $900 million of support for programs that combat substance use disorder and addiction in the Commonwealth and across the country.
- Cracking down on fentanyl trafficking at America’s borders and ports of entry. In December 2022, the President signed into law Spanberger’s bipartisan legislation — the Securing America’s Borders Against Fentanyl Act — to strengthen America’s response to fentanyl coming through the nation’s borders and ports of entry.
- Giving law enforcement officers the tools and training they need. Last month, Spanberger introduced her bipartisan, bicameral legislation — the POWER Act — to provide state and local law enforcement with new devices to detect and identify dangerous drugs — including fentanyl. And earlier this year, she reintroduced her bipartisan legislation to crack down on narcotics traffickers who are using illicit pill presses to manufacture counterfeit drugs.
- Fighting Tranq and holding drug traffickers accountable. Last month, Spanberger backed the Combating Illicit Xylazine Act, which would address the abuse of xylazine-adulterated fentanyl — also known as “tranq” — by empowering law enforcement to go after these criminals. Additionally, it would classify the illicit use of xylazine as a Schedule III substance under the Controlled Substances Act.
- Boosting the number of treatment providers for substance use disorder and mental health care. Last month, Spanberger introduced a bipartisan bill reauthorizing and increasing funding for the Substance Use Disorder Treatment and Recovery (STAR) Loan Repayment Program (LRP).
- Protecting Virginia children and teenagers from overdoses. Last month, Spanberger helped introduce bipartisan legislation to expand the availability of naloxone — also known as Narcan or Evzio — in Virginia schools. The Spanberger-backed School Access to Naloxone Act — modeled after the 2013 School Access to Emergency Epinephrine Act, which supported the rollout of EpiPens nationwide — would incentivize the stocking of naloxone and training of staff on its safe administration in schools across the country.