Press Releases

WASHINGTON – Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) cosponsored Tyler’s Law, a bill directing the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to provide hospitals with guidance on how emergency rooms can implement fentanyl testing in their routine drug screens. The bill is named for Tyler Shamash, a teenager who died of an overdose in part because – unbeknownst to the physician – he was not tested for fentanyl upon being checked into the emergency room.

“I was deeply saddened to hear of the death of 17-year-old Fairfax County resident Malcolm Kent, who died of a fentanyl overdose that might have been prevented by more comprehensive testing protocols. It’s clear that we need to start employing every mechanism we have at our disposal to catch and treat overdoses before they occur,” said Sen. Warner. “While this law will never bring back Malcolm Kent, Tyler Shamash, or the thousands we’ve lost too soon to overdoses, in their memory I am glad to push to save more lives by instituting more robust guidance on testing for fentanyl during a suspected overdose.”

In January 2023, Malcolm Kent, a 17-year-old Fairfax County resident, went to the emergency room while experiencing an overdose but was not tested for fentanyl. He died of a fentanyl overdose shortly after being discharged. His mother, Thurraya Kent, has advocated for robust measures to test for fentanyl in emergency rooms and expand access to treatment.

Tyler’s Law would direct the Secretary of HHS to:

  • Complete a study to determine how frequently emergency rooms are currently testing for fentanyl when patients come in for an overdose, as well as the associated costs and benefits/risks, and
  • Issue guidance to hospitals on implementing fentanyl testing in emergency rooms.

In 2022, 1,967 Virginians died due to overdose of fentanyl and other synthetic opioids, accounting for nearly 79% of all drug overdose deaths in Virginia. Nationally, fentanyl and other synthetic opioids were responsible for just over 63% of all drug overdose deaths that year. Since the start of the COVID pandemic, fentanyl has more than doubled overdose deaths among children ages 12 to 17.

Sen. Warner has consistently pushed for robust action to address the opioid epidemic, particularly by expanding telehealth so more Virginians experiencing substance use disorder can access treatment. He leads the TREATS Act, which would permanently (and without any special registration) allow telehealth prescribing of controlled substances to treat opioid use disorder, such as buprenorphine. He also repeatedly pushed the DEA to preserve pandemic-era telehealth flexibilities and create a special registration  so that quality providers can permanently prescribe controlled substances safely via telehealth. To address trafficking, he recently celebrated passage of the FEND Off Fentanyl Act, a sanctions and anti-money laundering law that targets fentanyl traffickers. He also introduced the Stop Fentanyl at the Border Act, legislation that would increase staffing capacity and technology to detect drugs that are being smuggled through points of entry. 

Tyler’s Law is led by Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Mike Braun (R-IN), and also cosponsored by Bob Casey (D-PA), Todd Young (R-IN), Alex Padilla (D-CA). The full text of the bill is available here.