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Partnership for a Drug-Free Community is offering free test strips to identify fentanyl. Helping with distribution are volunteer Ava Jones, from left, volunteer; Hub peer support specialists Laura Edwards and Nick Loftin; and Carl Wilkerson, Director of Recovery Services. CONTRIBUTED

Partnership giving away Fentanyl test strips

HUNTSVILLE – A recent spike in suspected drug overdose deaths has spurred Partnership for a Drug-Free Community to fast-track a new program to fight the fentanyl epidemic.

A limited number of fentanyl test strips will be available free of charge until the supply runs out. To receive a test strip, call the Partnership office at 256-539-7339.

Partnership’s One Stop Shop of Community Services is located at 2201 Clinton Ave. W., at the intersection of Clinton and Seminole streets.

“No names are required. Just stop by and pick up a free strip,” Partnership Executive Director Wendy Reeves said.

The free service by Partnership is in response to six suspected drug overdose deaths reported recently during a three-day period. Another two deaths occurred before Partnership’s summer board meeting that same week, Reeves said.

“While the exact cause of death in each instance is pending, fentanyl has been the cause of many of Madison County’s overdose deaths in recent months and over the past year,” Madison County Coroner Dr. Tyler Berryhill said.

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid prescribed to treat severe pain, especially following surgery or for advanced-stage cancer. Fentanyl is up to 50 times stronger than heroin and 100 times stronger than morphine, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Because fentanyl is so potent, illicit drug makers add it to other drugs, making them cheaper, stronger, more addictive and more dangerous.

Although the American Medical Association says test strips may reduce overdose deaths, some states have classified this technology as illegal drug paraphernalia. However, Alabama legalized distribution of test strips in March.

The fentanyl test strip program is one component of Partnership’s Recovery Resource Hub. The Hub is an impartial one-stop shop where people with substance use disorder can talk to a state-certified Peer Support Specialist and receive an assessment to determine the level of care needed. That assessment is the basis for treatment referral options.

Partnership staff also will distribute test strips at community events.

“Substance use today is not like in years past,” Reeves said. “Today, between the opioid and fentanyl epidemics, almost everyone knows someone who may struggle with a substance use disorder. (Considering) the increase in suspected overdose deaths, fentanyl has proven to be the main reason for increased loss of lives in our community.”

“In many cases, the user didn’t realize they were ingesting fentanyl. Our Recovery Resource Hub staff knows not everyone is ready for treatment but felt like the test strips allow users an opportunity to make sure they know what they’re taking,” Reeves said.

For treatment information, call Partnership’s Recovery Resource Hub at 256-539-7339 between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., Monday-Friday.

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