YAKIMA, WA – Today, Rep. Dan Newhouse (R-WA) held a roundtable at the Greater Yakima Chamber of Commerce to discuss the fentanyl crisis plaguing our communities and his new legislation, the William and James Wonacott Act of 2023. He was joined by Andrew and Brandi Wonacott, other parents of fentanyl victims from Central Washington, members of law enforcement, medical professionals, and community leaders who are all on the frontlines fighting the fentanyl crisis.
Click here for photos of the roundtable.
Click here for the full video of the roundtable.
“The fentanyl crisis has impacted far too many families in our communities, just like the Wonacott family,” said Rep. Newhouse. “Thank you to Andrew and Brandi for reaching out to me to bring awareness to this issue, and for being a strong voice for their two sons. To honor William and James, this crucial legislation will hold dealers and distributors accountable. Together, we can bring forth real solutions to confront the fentanyl crisis that is plaguing every corner of our communities.”
“The time is right to take action on the fentanyl crisis as it continues to be a huge impact to families and loved ones who have lost someone to a fentanyl-related overdose,” said Andrew and Brandi Wonacott, parents of William and James. “When this legislation becomes law and saves one family from the hurt and grief Brandi and I have had to endure, it is worth it. Thank you to Dan Newhouse’s efforts on this crisis. We are hopeful that Congress passes this legislation quickly with bi-partisan support. Our nation cannot wait anymore, and we must act and do something now to stop this poison from taking a generation from our families.”
“Yakima County is in the midst of a fentanyl crisis,” said Yakima County Sheriff Robert Udell. “The easily attainable drug is found in inexpensive pill-form and mixed into other illegal narcotics. Young people find it easy to find, and the result is dozens of opioid deaths a year just in Yakima County. We must act now to limit the availability of this dangerous drug, and Rep. Newhouse’s bill is one of the ways to do so. His proposal to enact significant mandatory penalties on those who sell fentanyl, often causing deaths, is an excellent way to protect people of all ages. I enthusiastically support Rep. Newhouse’s bill on penalties for fentanyl dealers.”
“Public safety should be the first priority of any government and people should be able to safely send their children to school and raise their families without fear,” said Jeremy Takala, Yakama Nation Tribal Councilman and Chairman of the Council’s Law and Order Committee. “I thank Congressman Newhouse for working to provide much-needed resources to law enforcement officers, including the recently passed Parity for Tribal Law Enforcement legislation, and urge that more resources be provided for an enhanced police response to the Fentanyl epidemic.”
TheWilliam and James Wonacott Act, introduced by Rep. Newhouse on March 24, 2023, is named after two young men from Yakima who lost their lives to products laced with illicit fentanyl. James Wonacott, 30, passed away in November 2022 and was known as a loving and involved member of the Yakima community. Less than one year later, James’ younger brother, William Wonacott, fell victim to the same fate. A United States Air Force veteran and husband, William was only 27 years old when he passed.
- The bill would define federal punishments by making selling, giving, or distributing equivalent to first-degree murder, including provisions to do the following:
- Enhances penalties for those who sell, give, or distribute illicit fentanyl-related substances. These actions will result in a minimum of twenty years with possibility of life.
- Enhances penalties if the selling, giving, or distributing results in death. These lethal actions will result in a minimum of twenty-five years with possibility of life.
Rep. Newhouse has been a leader in confronting the opioid crisis during his time in Congress, taking the following actions to combat trafficking of deadly substances, expand treatment opportunities, and secure our southern border:
- Earlier this year, Rep. Newhouse introduced the Save Americans from the Fentanyl Emergency Act, or Safe Act of 2023. The legislation permanently schedules all current and future fentanyl-related substances as Schedule I drugs, to ensure law enforcement can continue to prosecute the sale and use of these substances.
- On December 20, 2022, Rep. Newhouse and Rep. Pappas reintroduced their legislation to extend the emergency scheduling of fentanyl analogues through December 31, 2024, which became law through the government funding package that was passed by Congress.
- In March, 2022 Rep. Newhouse introduced the Save Americans from the Fentanyl Emergency Act of 2022, or SAFE Act of 2022. The legislation permanently schedules all current and future fentanyl-related substances as Schedule I drugs, to ensure law enforcement can continue to prosecute the sale and use of these substances.
- On February 10, 2022, Rep. Newhouse sent a letter to President Biden urging his Administration take immediate action on the influx of fentanyl streaming into our country by securing our borders and making fentanyl-related substances’ Schedule 1 classification permanent to ensure law enforcement can continue to prosecute the sale and use of these substances.
- On February 8, 2022, Rep. Newhouse introduced the Dignity Act, which restarts all currently paused border infrastructure contracts and increases funding for physical border infrastructure.
- On February 3, 2022, Rep. Newhouse introduced the Law Enforcement Officers Preventing (Drug) Abuse Related Deaths or LEOPARD Act. This bill authorizes rural community response pilot grant programs to allow state and local law enforcement agencies to purchase naloxone, an effective tool to prevent and reduce opioid overdose deaths and directs at least 50% of the programs’ grant funding to rural communities.
- On March 2, 2022, Rep. Newhouse cosponsored the Halt All Lethal Trafficking of Fentanyl Act or the HALT Fentanyl Act. This bill places fentanyl-related substances as a class into schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act.
- In 2016, Rep. Newhouse voted in favor of the bipartisan 21st Century CURES Act, which increased state grants for treatment from $500 million to $1.5 billion. Half of those grants were made available in 2017, and the next half in 2018.
- In 2016, Rep. Newhouse supported the House passage of H.R. 5046, the Comprehensive Opioid Abuse Reduction Act of 2016 and 17 bills to address the national opioid abuse crisis. H.R. 5046 combats the opioid epidemic by establishing a streamlined, comprehensive opioid abuse grant program that encompasses a variety of new and existing programs, such as vital training and resources for first responders and law enforcement, criminal investigations for the unlawful distribution of opioids, drug courts, and residential substance abuse treatment. The bill authorizes $103 million annually for the grant program and is fully offset for cut-go purposes.