NEWYou can now listen to Fox News articles!
A letter sent by five senators to the Pentagon on Wednesday demanded answers on the increased drug overdose deaths at North Carolina’s Fort Bragg, as well as more information on how the fentanyl crisis is impacting cadets at Texas’ Fort Bliss, New York’s West Point and other military installations stateside.
The letter, obtained by Fox News Digital, was signed by Sens. Ed Markey, D-Mass., John Cornyn, R-Texas, Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., Lisa Murkowski, R-Ark., and Martin Heinrich, D-N.M.
It’s addressed to Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III regarding the “alarming reports of fatal drug overdoses of active-duty U.S. service members” and cites reporting by the Rolling Stone of at least 14 — and as many as 30 — overdose deaths that have occurred at Fort Bragg since 2020. The North Carolina base is home to the 82nd Airborne Division, the Special Forces, and the Joint Special Operations Command.
“This reporting follows news of recent overdoses involving cadets at Fort Bliss and West Point,” the letter says. “In light of this disturbing trend, we write seeking a full understanding of the pattern of overdoses among active-duty service members, and urge you to implement a plan of action that prevents future overdoses.”
NORTH CAROLINA MAN CHARGED IN KILLING OF FORT BRAGG SOLDIER
It continues, “The deaths and non-fatal overdoses at Fort Bragg, Fort Bliss, West Point, and in states with high military populations like Alaska, involve opioids and, more specifically, fentanyl, consumed both intentionally and unintentionally. These incidents represent the continuation of a persistent and troubling pattern.”
The senators argue the misuse of opioids, specifically prescription painkillers, at military hospitals and among active-duty service members is well documented, but the influx of fentanyl poses an added risk.
“The lethality of even a small amount of illicit fentanyl is making recreational opioid use increasingly deadly, often for those who are not even aware it is present in the drugs they are ingesting,” the letter says.
From 2010 to 2016, opioid overdose deaths among veterans more than doubled, the letter says.
Among their questions to Austin, the senators asked for an accurate count of the number of fatal overdoses that have occurred among active military service members since 2017; whether treatment, including Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT), for active duty service members is equally accessible at all military installations; what support the Department of Defense provides to families of an active duty service member who dies from a fatal overdose; and what protocol is in place for the DoD to identify and respond to an uptick in overdoses, either generally or at a specific military installation.
The letter requests that Austin provide answers by Oct. 20.
“We sincerely appreciate the efforts that DOD has taken to reduce [substance use disorder] and illicit drug use, research and monitor the issue, improve access to treatment, and increase access to, and destigmatize, behavioral healthcare for active military and veterans,” the senators wrote. “While these steps have shown some effectiveness, the recent reports of overdoses indicate a problem that may be underreported and are a call for urgent action to reduce the impact of SUD on those who have sacrificed to serve our country.”
CLICK HERE TO GET THE FOX NEWS APP
Fox News Digital reached out to Fort Bragg and the Department of Defense for comment.