Health agencies may use federal funds to buy fentanyl rapid tests to curb overdose deaths

Fentanyl test strips are now included in Project HOPE Narcan kits.
Fentanyl test strips are now included in Project HOPE Narcan kits.(Alaska's News Source)
Published: Apr. 7, 2021 at 3:34 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - Some of the nation’s top health agencies announced Wednesday that federal funding can now be used to buy rapid fentanyl test strips in an effort to reduce drug overdose deaths that have spiked recently.

According to the Centers for Disease Control Prevention and Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, the spike in overdose deaths is driven by the use of strong synthetic opioids. This includes illegally manufactured fentanyl.

Tom Coderre, the acting assistant secretary for Mental Health and Substance abuse at SAMHSA, said this is a major step in preventing overdose deaths and getting treatment for those who have substance abuse disorders.

“This will save lives by providing tools to identify the growing presence of fentanyl in the nation’s illicit drug supply and – partnered with referrals to treatment – complement SAMHSA’s daily work to direct help to more Americans,” Coderre said.

The agencies explained the fentanyl test strips can be used to determine if drugs have been mixed with fentanyl, which would allow people who use drugs with the necessary information to reduce an overdose risk.

CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said the funding for these test strips are another tool for state and local health programs to use.

“We must do all we can to save lives from drug overdoses,” said Dr. Walensky. “The increase in drug overdose deaths related to synthetic opioids such as illicitly made fentanyl is a public health crisis that requires immediate action and novel strategies.”

About 88,000 people died from drug overdose deaths in the past 12 months, ending in August 2020, according to the CDC. These agencies noted this is the highest number of overdose deaths ever recorded in a 12-month period, and deaths have continued to climb amid the pandemic.

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