The goal of the pilot project is to reduce overdose deaths and raise awareness of the danger posed by fentanyl.
La Crosse County is distributing thousands of test strips that can detect whether fentanyl is present in other drugs in a push to reduce overdose deaths.
County social workers will distribute the test strips as part of the pilot project to people they work with. The county also is donating test strips to community service agencies and local health care providers.
Fentanyl is a powerful opioid that is mixed into other drugs to increase potency. It can be deadly when even trace amounts are ingested. There were 31 drug overdose deaths in La Crosse County in 2021 and most of those cases involved a person who had ingested fentanyl.
Anneliese Skoda, Integrated Support and Recovery Services Assistant Manager at La Crosse County Human Services, said she hopes the test strips can help raise awareness about the dangers of fentanyl.
“We hope the test strips will allow people to make informed decisions about what they’re using,” Skoda said. “People may not be aware a substance contains fentanyl, but if they are maybe they will choose not to use, or at least make sure they use with someone who has access to Narcan.” Narcan is a potentially life-saving nasal spray that can reverse the effects of an opioid overdose in minutes.
The test strips are quick and easy to use and allow users to test a very small amount of a drug to see if it contains fentanyl. The county will include a guide with the test strips with information on local support services and resources for people with substance use disorders.
“This is also an opportunity for us to distribute information about resources available locally to help people with substance use issues,” Skoda said. “We want to keep people safe from fentanyl, which is so dangerous, and at the same time help people get the treatment they need so they’re no longer at risk.”
Earlier this year, Gov. Tony Evers signed legislation to decriminalize fentanyl test strips, which had previously been considered drug paraphernalia. La Crosse County received
State Opioid Response Grant (SOR) funding to purchase the test strips. The county currently has about 2,500 strips for distribution and may acquire more in the coming months.
Members of the public can contact La Crosse County Human Services at 300 4th St. N., La Crosse, 608-784-4357, for information on substance use disorder treatment services.