June 19, 2017
Press Release

SYRACUSE, N.Y. – This morning, U.S. Rep. John Katko (NY-24) stood at Crouse Hospital in Syracuse to announce bipartisan, bicameral legislation he has introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives to combat the synthetic drug epidemic that has swept Central New York.

Toxic, synthetic drugs are designed to mimic street drugs like marijuana, LSD, cocaine, Ecstasy and other hard drugs.  They can be more potent than the real thing and just as deadly.  Currently, manufacturers and distributors of these substances are able to slightly alter the chemical structure of drugs to avoid law enforcement scrutiny and prosecution.  Since being elected to represent Central New York in Congress, Rep. Katko has prioritized addressing this crisis.

“Just a few weeks back, we saw a record surge in synthetic drug overdoses in Syracuse.  Sadly, this has become all too commonplace in our community,” said U.S. Rep. John Katko. “Today, I’m proud to stand here with some of the individuals from across Central New York who work on the front lines each and every day to combat this epidemic.   The legislation I’ve introduced will help stop the unlawful importation and distribution of synthetic drugs and give our law enforcement the effective tools they need to keep our community safe.”

The bipartisan, bicameral measure introduced by Rep. Katko, the Stop the Importation and Trafficking of Synthetic Analogues (SITSA) Act, modernizes the Controlled Substances Act and outlaws 13 synthetic fentanyls that have been identified by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) as an immediate threat to public health.

Local advocates, healthcare and treatment professionals, not-for-profit organizations, and law enforcement joined Rep. Katko for this morning’s announcement and applauded the introduction of this legislation:  

Teresa Woolson, President of the VOW Foundation, said, “The synthetic drug that killed my son was identified as XLR-11 and this chemical compound continued to cause harm for another 4 years before it was added to the Controlled Substance List.  This bill would create a much-needed tool to help law enforcement stop the spread of these deadly drugs in our Country.   I applaud Congressman Katko for his continued efforts to combat this drug crisis.”

“The City of Syracuse has been plagued by influx of synthetic opioids and other synthetic drugs.  The Syracuse Police Department strongly supports legislation of this type, which will provide tougher penalties to the people responsible for bringing these dangerous substances into our community.  We will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to target the criminals responsible for trafficking these substances,” stated Syracuse Police Chief Frank Fowler.

“On behalf of Crouse Health and everyone who is impacted by the prescription drug and heroin epidemic I applaud Congressman Katko’s ongoing efforts to bring solutions to this public health crisis that has taken many lives in our community,” said Monika Taylor, Director of Behavioral Health for Crouse Hospital. “This legislation supports the multi-pronged approach needed to successfully address this current epidemic by reducing the supply of lethal substances in our communities, thus reducing the number of new cases of opioid addiction and preventing overdose deaths attributed to synthetic drugs that are as much as 100 times more potent than morphine.  Crouse has been providing comprehensive treatment in our community since 1962 and we have responded to the increased demand for treatment by steadily expanding services to meet the growing need.”

Alan Thornton, CEO, Rescue Mission Alliance said, “Unfortunately, over the past few years, we have witnessed scores of individuals fall prey to synthetic drugs. From Central New York’s suburbs to its city neighborhoods, no place is immune. Each and every overdose is heartbreaking.”

Dr. Indu Gupta, Onondaga County Commissioner of Health explained, “We continue to see increasing numbers of drug overdoses from opioids – both prescription painkillers and heroin or fentanyl.  We have also seen surges in overdoses due to synthetic cannabinoids. This drug epidemic has affected every sector of society, highlighting the importance of a collaborative approach at the local, state, and federal level to address this crisis.”

Specifically the SITSA Act:

  • Modernizes the Controlled Substances Act by adding Schedule A to the existing 5 schedules.  It provides a mechanism by which synthetic analogues can be temporarily or permanently added to the Schedule A by the Attorney General.   This will allow scientific and research communities to develop information on these newly-invented substances.  
  • Adds 13 synthetic fentanyls, which have been identified by the Drug Enforcement Administration as an immediate threat to public health, to Schedule A.  These substances have been confirmed as the cause of death in at least 162 cases in the U.S., with several more suspected. 
  • Specifically omits federal simple possession of a synthetic drug from the reach of the bill.
  • Provides a streamlined approach for sentencing synthetic drug trafficking in federal courts.
  • Adds to current law an offense for false labeling of controlled substance analogues.

Congressman Katko represents the 24th Congressional District of New York, which includes all of Onondaga, Cayuga, and Wayne Counties and the western portion of Oswego County.  For more information visit or