December 13, 2021
County Board Supervisor Anthony Gray, (608) 354-7122
County Board

At the December 16, 2021, Dane County Board Supervisor Anthony Gray (District 14), will introduce a resolution that will authorize the development of a Dane County program to make fentanyl testing strips accessible to residents to prevent overdose deaths.

Fentanyl or a fentanyl analog is often added to other drugs such as heroin, but increasingly to a broader mix of street drugs including cocaine, crack, methamphetamine, and other opioids, to make their manufacture cheaper. Because fentanyl can’t be seen, smelled, or tasted it is currently impossible to know if a drug has been laced with fentanyl without testing for it. And because of its extreme potency, only a small amount of fentanyl is required for the substance to become fatal.

Fentanyl is becoming a major contributor to fatal and non-fatal accidental overdoses in the U.S. and locally, with the Midwest and Northeast being hit particularly hard by this phenomenon.

"Making these testing strips readily accessible for all is a simple but hugely impactful step we can take in preventing overdose deaths," said Supervisor Gray. "We need to stop treating addiction with disdain, and recognize it as the brain disorder it is, and that we need to do what we can to help them get treatment."

Referencing other pilot programs across the country, the resolution notes that other programs found that:

  • Low-cost fentanyl testing strips are accurate and easy-to-use with minimal instruction, detecting the absence or presence of even the smallest amounts of fentanyl in another substance;
  • Drug users communicate positive test results within user communities, causing deterrence;
  • Test strips are a useful engagement tool to foster discussion with users regarding NARCAN, rehabilitation services, etc.;
  • Test strips allow providers to better engage with non-injectors and non-opioid users around overdose prevention and resulted in an increase in Naloxone training with non-opioid users;
  • Test strips allow users to be more informed about the drugs they are buying and using, leading to behavior change and the adoption of increased harm reduction measures; and
  • Test strips reduced overdose deaths

The resolution encourages Public Health Madison Dane County to work with the State of Wisconsin Department of Health Services, organizations providing support services for drug users in Dane County, and Dane County first responders, to develop a program by which fentanyl testing strips can be made available to those who need them in order to prevent synthetic opioid-related overdose and death.

The resolution will be available here: the Friday following the December 16 County Board meeting.