ATA Honors Lawmakers’ Fentanyl Response
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WASHINGTON — The charitable arm of American Trucking Associations recognized members of Congress who are working to raise awareness of fentanyl addiction in the United States, and committed industry resources to assist in the effort.
“The leaders, the owners, the employees, the drivers, the administrative staff of every company in the trucking industry cares,” Phil Byrd, chairman of the Trucking Cares Foundation and a former ATA chairman, told Transport Topics. Byrd on Sept. 28 presented four federal lawmakers with the group’s 2023 Congressional Hero Awards.
Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), founder and co-chairman of the bipartisan Fentanyl Prevention Caucus, met with Byrd and ATA personnel to accept his award. In addition to Issa, the foundation also recognized Rep. Angie Craig (D-Minn.) and Sens. Jack Reed (D-R.I.) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.).
Over the summer, the Trucking Cares Foundation also donated $25,000 to Voices for Awareness, a nonprofit that advocates for greater awareness about fentanyl addiction. With ATA’s assistance, the group’s outreach campaign is set to include trailer wraps featuring information about the fentanyl crisis. Voices for Awareness founder Andrea Thomas told Transport Topics she valued ATA’s outreach.
“The support of the ATA and the Trucking Cares Foundation for us is immeasurable,” she said. “The work that they’re doing for Americans, and across the United States, is immense.”
At the ceremony, Issa emphasized the need for efforts such as these that further educate the public about the dangers of the drug.
“We all hear about people on the streets. We hear about the highly vulnerable. And we completely miss the fact that no community is exempt from this,” Issa said. “I was in Mexico with Sen. [Joni] Ernst and there they told the story of: ‘We thought this was an American problem. Now we see it’s our problem too.’ ” Of the Trucking Cares Foundation efforts, he said, “What you’re doing is critical, and we’ll do our part. At the end of the day, it’s the awareness and it’s the education that’s going to make a difference.”
Byrd stressed, “What we can do effectively is awareness and messaging.”
Craig, a member of the Fentanyl Prevention Caucus, is a co-sponsor of bipartisan legislation that would assist law enforcement with prosecuting the manufacturing and sale of fentanyl. She also is a co-sponsor of a bill designed to enhance the public health response to the opioid epidemic.
Reed and Capito also co-sponsor measures designed to address fentanyl addiction as well as raise awareness about the opioid epidemic.
“Nationwide drug-related fatalities claimed the lives of nearly 110,000 Americans last year, a tragic record. This staggering number of deaths demands action,” said ATA President Chris Spear. “When America faces crises, the trucking industry steps up to answer the call to service. We are proud to recognize these members of Congress for their exceptional work to eliminate this scourge, and we will continue to stand with them in their fight to stop fentanyl trafficking and to provide support for those struggling with addiction.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Rates of overdose deaths involving synthetic opioids other than methadone, which includes fentanyl and fentanyl analogs, increased over 22% from 2020 to 2021. The rate of overdose deaths involving synthetic opioids in 2021 was nearly 22 times the rate in 2013.”.
“We care about our employees, their families. We care about the communities and the neighborhoods, the public, highway safety,” Byrd said. “We care about picking up our freight and delivering those goods to every community in this country every day. So, we care. It just speaks to our DNA.”
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