Illinois bill to provide fentanyl test strips has broad support
SPRINGFIELD — An effort to make it easier to get fentanyl test strips is getting bipartisan support at the Illinois House.
Introduced by House Republican Leader Tony McCombie, R-Savanna, Bill 3203 would allow pharmacists and retail stores to sell fentanyl test strips over the counter. County health departments could also distribute the test strips for free.
McCombie said the bill, which Democrats and Republicans are co-sponsors of, is a necessary first step in addressing the fentanyl epidemic.
“It also changes the word for test strips to be removed from the law,” McCombie said. “Currently it’s considered drug paraphernalia, so that takes that definition away.”
Besides using fentanyl test strips to find out if fentanyl is in a drug, there are other ways to reduce the risk of overdose, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Here are some other precautions to take:
Keep naloxone, also known as Narcan, readily available. Talk to a health care provider or pharmacist about getting a prescription for naloxone if someone is at risk of an overdose. Avoid mixing medications. Mixing multiple stimulants like methamphetamine and cocaine, depressants like opioids and alcohol, or a combination of the two can cause harm and potentially death. Do not rely on a source or previous experience. Knowing where drugs come from does not mean they are safe. And even if someone has used drugs before, a body may react differently each time. Never use drugs alone. Make sure people know when drugs were used in case they need to administer naloxone or call for emergency help. Ask for help getting addiction treatment. Recovery from substance use disorders is possible. Treatment and service options can be found by going to findtreatment.gov or calling the National Helpline at 800-662-4357. Learn moreMinimize
Fentanyl test strips are small strips of paper that were originally created to detect fentanyl in urine, but they can be used to see if a drug contains fentanyl in about five minutes. Test strips may not detect stronger fentanyl-type drugs, such as carfentanil. Bands usually cost less than a dollar.
McCombie’s bill on Thursday was scheduled for third reading. March 24 is the deadline to advance bills through the House after third reading.
The bill was welcomed by county health department chiefs, including Greene County’s Molly Peters.
The topic of fentanyl test strips came to the fore in February after two students at North Mac High School were found to be in possession and in possession of marijuana containing fentanyl by the Virden Police Department. In a field test by police, the marijuana was found to contain fentanyl.
Statistics from Illinois Department of Public Health officials show synthetic opioid-related deaths have increased 2,736% since 2013 and caused nearly 2,500 deaths in 2020. IDPH has reported more than 3,717 overdoses drug cases involving fentanyl in 2021.
“It’s a different time for drugs in America,” Peters said. “Fentanyl test strips should be available to all members of the community. We should use all of our tools and available science to prevent deaths and immediate addiction.
“Not every child, student, family member or loved one understands terms like ‘laced’ or chooses to become addicted to a substance while using it,” she said. “In order to really make a difference, we need to take a deep look at the prevention tools we have and use them.
“We plan to use every tool at our disposal to prevent accidental deaths and overdoses within our community,” Peters said. “Over the past few months, the Greene County Health Department has been working to build resources within our community. A readily available resource within the department includes fentanyl test strips and naloxone.”
State Rep. CD Davidsmeyer, R-Jacksonville, said he briefly discussed the bill with McCombie and was in favor of it.
“It’s good to make sure the material is available to people through the appropriate channels,” he said.
Davidsmeyer said House Bill 1121, sponsored by state Rep. Will Guzzardi, D-Chicago, passed unanimous third reading this week and would allow any trained overdose responder to use a test device. Davidsmeyer, he favors McCombie’s bill because it is stronger, but he hopes the provisions of both will be enacted.
“It is the mission of our health department to serve our community based on our community needs. Substance abuse prevention and mental health resources have been identified as a top priority in our Illinois project for the local needs assessment in Greene County,” Peters said. “Identifying and providing resources related to substance abuse and addiction prevention is a community need that is not exclusive to Greene County.”
Samantha McDaniel-Ogletree provided information for this article.