Tester Leads Bipartisan Effort to Protect Law Enforcement from Fentanyl Exposure

Senator’s PREVENT Act to equip and train Customs and Border Protection agents with adequate safety tools

Continuing his push to strengthen border security and crack down on fentanyl trafficking, U.S. Senator Jon Tester this week introduced his bipartisan Prevent Exposure to Narcotics and Toxins (PREVENT) Act of 2022, to ensure that federal law enforcement officers are properly equipped to protect against secondary exposure to dangerous drugs like fentanyl.

“Fentanyl trafficking is the cause of rapidly increasing overdoses and deaths in communities in Montana and across the country, and our law enforcement agents are on the front lines of the fight to stop it,” said Tester. “I’m proud to stand shoulder to shoulder with law enforcement in backing this bipartisan bill, because we need to give officers every tool available to stay safe on the job while they work to protect our communities.”

The PREVENT Act would require the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Commissioner of Customs and Border Protection to purchase containment devices, a critical tool in safely storing illicit narcotics, for all frontline border patrol agents. The legislation would also ensure that officers receive proper training on how to use containment devices to prevent potential synthetic opioid exposure.

Tester was joined by Senators Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Bill Cassidy (R-La.), Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) in introducing the bill. The PREVENT Act is also supported by the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association.

Last year, record levels of fentanyl entered the nation through the border and ports of entry, and according to the Montana Department of Health and Human Services, the number of fentanyl-related deaths in Montana more than doubled. Customs and Border Protection, and other federal law enforcement agents, are responsible for intercepting fentanyl and other illegal drugs at the border, and accidental exposure to these narcotics and toxins can be particularly dangerous without proper equipment and training. 

As the Chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense and a former Ranking Member of the Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee, Tester is a leading national voice on national defense and border security. Earlier this month, Tester supported the Securing America’s Borders Against Fentanyl Act to require DHS, along with other relevant agencies to research and develop technologies and strategies to specifically aimed at targeting and detecting illicit fentanyl before it can be trafficked into the United States. This bill would provide $20 million to develop new technology to target and detect illicit fentanyl being trafficked into the U.S.; enhance targeting of counterfeit pills and illicit pill presses through nonintrusive and other visual screening technologies; and strengthen data-driven targeting to increase seizure rates of fentanyl.

In April, Tester also cosponsored two bipartisan bills to increase the recruitment and retention of Customs and Border Protection officers and U.S. Border Patrol agents. Tester’s Securing America’s Ports of Entry Act will require CBP to hire additional agents to meet staffing needs, and his Border Patrol Pay Security Act will increase overtime pay for Border Patrol agents. 

Additionally, in 2021 Tester introduced his bipartisan Assisting Narcotics and Trafficking Officers in Interdicting (ANTI) Drugs Act which would help law enforcement combat drug trafficking by increasing resources for High Intensity Drug Task Forces (HIDTA), Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS), and Operation Stonegarden – programs that support law enforcement efforts to combat the drug epidemic and boost border security.

Full bill text can be found HERE.