Katko

U.S. Rep. John Katko testifies at House subcommittee hearing Wednesday. 

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Morgan Axe. Nicholas Campagnola. Jessica Gentile. Christopher Socci. Victor Woolson. 

As U.S. Rep. John Katko testified before a House subcommittee Wednesday, he shared the stories of young central New Yorkers whose lives were cut short due to opioid or synthetic drug overdoses. Another, Katie Socci, was murdered by her ex-boyfriend who was addicted to opioids. 

Katko, R-Camillus, briefly told his colleagues about each of the victims. Axe was five months pregnant and a recovering addict when a drug dealer provided her with fentanyl-laced heroin. She died in November 2015. 

Campagnola, an Auburn native, relapsed and died after injecting what he believed was heroin. It was actually a fatal mix of fentanyl and synthetic acid. 

Gentile, of Auburn, died in May 2013 after overdosing on heroin. Christopher Socci, the brother of Katie Socci, died later that year from a heroin overdose. 

Woolson, an Oswego teen, drowned in Lake Ontario. He had used synthetic marijuana before he went swimming. 

The six people — and others — have motivated Katko to sponsor the Stop the Importation and Trafficking of Synthetic Analogues Act. The bill focuses mainly on stricter enforcement and the establishment of new provisions to combat the spread of opioids and synthetic drugs. 

"That's the face of this tragedy," Katko said. "That's the face of what's going on here and that's what I'm trying to address with respect to the SITSA Act." 

Katko's bill would establish a new schedule, Schedule A, to the Controlled Substances Act that aims to crack down on chemical compounds used to manufacture synthetic drugs. The measure would add 13 forms of synthetic fentanyl to the new schedule. 

The legislation also would give the federal government a process for temporarily adding a compound to Schedule A. That would initiate a review process to determine whether the chemical should be on the schedule permanently. 

Katko proposed the creation of a new crime, false labeling of controlled substance analogues, and wants streamlined sentencing for federal synthetic drug trafficking offenses. 

In June, Katko testified before the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security and Investigations to urge the panel to support his bill. The House Judiciary Committee approved the measure in July. 

The bill must clear the House Energy and Commerce Committee before it's considered by the full House. 

Katko acknowledged that the House has already taken action to address two components of the epidemic — prevention and treatment. He believes his bill would focus on the third part, which is law enforcement. 

"This SITSA Act is something that law enforcement needs and quite frankly, it's a game-changer," he said. 

Online producer Robert Harding can be reached at (315) 282-2220 or robert.harding@lee.net. Follow him on Twitter @robertharding.

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