In March, Gov. Tony Evers (D) responded to the rising number of fentanyl overdoses in Wisconsin by passing legislation that would ensure free fentanyl test strips to be made readily accessible to residents.
Now the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) announced that it’s providing 120,600 fentanyl test strips to organizations across the state combating opioid and drug addiction.
It’s estimated that fentanyl played a role in 812 overdose deaths in Wisconsin in 2020 and is the leading cause of overdose deaths in the state.
“Tragically, many people who use drugs have no idea they are ingesting fentanyl until it’s too late. That’s why we need to empower our family members, friends, and neighbors who use drugs to have as much information as possible to protect their safety. Fentanyl test strips are a critical tool in our efforts to save lives,” Karen Timberlake, the DHS Secretary-designee, said.
The synthetic opioid has been a major problem across both the state and the country, as people are either knowingly taking it, or in many cases, victims of laced drugs. Fentanyl is 50 times stronger than heroin and up to 100 times stronger than morphine, according to the DHS. The opioid is dangerous enough that 3 milligrams is enough to kill an adult male. Fentanyl is also problematic due to the fact that it has no scent or taste, making it difficult to detect.
The test strips can be dipped into water where a drug residue (such as cocaine, heroin, or methamphetamine) has dissolved in order to detect the presence of fentanyl, though it’s important to note that this doesn’t detect how much of the opioid is present.
The state has stressed that there’s no limitations on the amount of test strips one can take, as the health clinics, human service departments, and organizations have an “unlimited supply” from the state. Residents can find a map of pickup locations for test strips on the DHS website.
The first phase of the fentanyl test strip program will cost $1.25 million and will be funded through the American Rescue Plan Act. Those struggling with substance abuse can contact Wisconsin Addiction Recovery at 211 or visit the helpline website.