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October 26, 2022

U.S. Rep. Lamborn introduces bill to address fentanyl use among youth

Credit: Colorado Politics, Hannah Metzger

Colorado’s U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn introduced a bill last week seeking to create and fund fentanyl use prevention efforts targeting the youth.

If passed, House Bill 9221 would authorize the Department of Health and Human Services to launch a public education campaign on fentanyl use and identify addiction among youth. In addition, the bill would create a community grant program to fund youth-based prevention efforts and establish a working group to recommend further actions to address youth fentanyl use.

“Fentanyl is a highly lethal drug, which was responsible for 77% of teen overdose deaths in 2021,” Lamborn said in a news release. “It is imperative that we remain proactive in educating our most vulnerable about the threat fentanyl poses to our communities and families.”

Fentanyl is a cheap, synthetic opioid that — according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — is up to 100 times stronger than morphine. It’s increasingly being mixed into other drugs such as cocaine and meth, with experts saying virtually every street drug now contains at least some fentanyl. 

The bill is named “Bruce’s Law,” for 22-year-old Robert “Bruce” Snodgrass — an Alaskan man who died from a fentanyl overdose last October. In the last year, approximately 73,000 people have died from synthetic opioid-related overdoses in the U.S., according to provisional data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Fentanyl-related deaths among U.S. adolescents rose by nearly 250% between 2019 and 2021, according to an April study. The study found that, in 2021, fentanyl was identified in 77.14% of adolescent overdose deaths.

In addition to Republican Lamborn, the bipartisan bill is sponsored by U.S. Rep. David Trone, D-Maryland, U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers, R-Kentucky, and U.S. Rep. Mary Sattler Peltola, D-Alaska.

“This epidemic is not only an issue in my state but a serious issue nationwide,” Peltola said in the release. “There are very few families across our nation that have not had a loved one experience opioid addiction or death. This legislation is critical to ensuring our communities have the resources they need to educate the public on the dangers of fentanyl.”

Bruce’s Law was introduced to the House of Representatives on Friday and sent to the Committee on Energy and Commerce. There it will face its first vote in the coming months. The bill was introduced to the Senate in June and is awaiting action from the Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions.

This newest fentanyl-related legislation comes only one month after Lamborn and Colorado’s Democratic U.S. Rep. Joe Neguse introduced a bill in September, aiming to allow schools to allocate federal COVID-19 relief funds for the purchase of drug overdose-reversing medicines.