Newtown Police Chief Tom Synan speaks at opioid hearing hosted by Sen. Rob Portman in Washington

WASHINGTON -- A Tri-State police chief spoke Thursday morning before a Senate hearing focused on stopping the shipment of synthetic opioids into the U.S. and our national strategy for fighting the heroin epidemic.

Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) said Americans are dying at an alarming rate, and he hosted in the event in hopes of speeding along the passage of his proposed bill to cut down on America's opioid epidemic.

Newtown Police Chief Tom Synan Jr., a leader of the Hamilton County Heroin Coalition, spoke as a panel member at the hearing. Read his full testimony here.

"In my 24 years of law enforcement, I have never seen a substance cause such damage and devastation with its death rates that have risen to levels higher than car accidents and homicides combined,” Synan wrote in his prepared testimony, available here. “I have witnessed the power of drugs in my small community, watching an entire family from mother to her three sons wiped out.”

RELATED: Newtown Police Chief Tom Synan takes war on heroin personally

Synan implored the panel to do all it could to prevent opioids from getting into the United States through customs and the postal system.

“Each intervention that prohibits these synthetics from reaching the streets means first responders can get relief from the overwhelming numbers which have caused such stressors on them and our system we have coined a term working with the Ohio Attorney General called 'first responder fatigue,'" Synan said.

This hearing will examine the country’s growing problem with fentanyl and other synthetic opioids and will review the U.S. government’s strategy to combat these threats. The hearing will explore how fentanyl and other illegal drugs are getting into the U.S. – mainly from criminals in China that take advantage of weaknesses in international mail security standards by shipping drugs directly through our own postal system. Portman has introduced bipartisan legislation – the Synthetics Trafficking and Overdose Prevention Act – that would address this problem.

A list of participating speakers is available here. Key representatives from the United States Postal Service, Customs and Border Protection, the U.S. Department of State, the U.S. Postal Service Inspector General and United Parcel Service testified on the operation and security of the international mail system.

During the second panel, the subcommittee heard from those on the front lines fighting the opioid epidemic every day. This included the former director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, Synan, a medical examiner and a physician specializing in addiction medicine and treatment.

Visit WCPO.com/heroin for more of 9 On Your Side's coverage of the Tri-State's heroin epidemic.

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