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5/10/2018 Bill would allow for lifesaving fentanyl test strips to prevent overdose deaths
STATE HOUSE – Advocates gathered today to discuss a bill introduced by Rep. Aaron Regunberg to solidify the legality of fentanyl test strips. Fentanyl is a powerful opioid that is the leading driver of overdose deaths in the state.

“Preventable overdose deaths have taken too many of our neighbors and our young people. Nearly every family in our state has been touched in some way, and we need to take action. Fentanyl is a primary factory in the spike in overdose deaths in recent years, and fentanyl test strips are an effective tool to protect against this dangerous substance. By increasing access to test strips, this legislation will save lives and make our communities safer,” said Representative Regunberg (D-Dist. 4, Providence).

Michael Galipeau of Rhode Island Communities for Addiction Recovery Efforts, Inc. (RICARES) noted, “While we still have a long way to go to make death from overdose truly a thing of our past, this is a very large step in the right direction.  Let us work together to create a culture where we embrace our differences and seek sensible ways to address public safety - using methods and tools that we already have in similar arenas to address the challenges we have experienced with overdose.  For the price of just $1, a life can be spared. We are tired of dying out here, and for just a dollar, that is one powerful price tag.”

Representative Regunberg and advocates held an event at the Providence Public Safety Complex this morning in support of the legislation (2018-H 8132).

The foundation of the proposed legislation is drawn from two recent Rhode Island-based research studies led by a team of professionals, including by Dr. Traci Green and Dr. Brandon Marshall of the Brown University School of Public Health, which highlighted the benefits of this type of public health intervention.

The studies found that fentanyl test strips:
  • let people know what is in their substances. Research by Green et. al. shows that “of all respondents, 85 percent desired to know about the presence of fentanyl before using drugs. Drug checking was viewed as an important means of overdose prevention, with 89 percent agreeing that it would make them feel better about protecting themselves from overdose.”
In a second study led by Professor Marshall and published recently in Harm Reduction Journal, the majority of young adults interviewed reported being concerned about fentanyl overdose, and 95 percent wanted to use the rapid testing strips. “This study provides compelling evidence that young people at risk of overdose will be highly willing to use fentanyl testing strips if they are made available,” noted Dr. Marshall.
  • are a cost-effective way to prevent an overdose. The test strips cost about $1 per strip and are sensitive to detect fentanyl in very small doses.   
  • allow for people who use substances to know if they are about to consume fentanyl. This is especially important in Rhode Island, as drugs such as cocaine and methamphetamine have been found to contain fentanyl, and those consuming those drugs may not have a tolerance to opioids.
  • have a range of support from primary care doctors, school nurses, mental health and substance use professionals, hospital emergency departments, law enforcement professionals, first responders, student organizations, legislatures, attorneys, and drug users.
  • promote a public health and information-based approach to the overdose epidemic, rather than ineffective, punitive measures that perpetuate the failed war on drugs.

For more information, contact:
Meredyth R. Whitty, Publicist
State House Room 20
Providence, RI 02903
(401) 222-1923