Advocates believe decriminalization of fentanyl testing strips could save lives

Published: Mar. 18, 2023 at 4:31 PM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) -You’ve likely heard of the dangers of fentanyl. We’ve even shared the stories of families impacted by overdoses of the drug. Now, the state is offering up a tool that many hope will offer a new lifeline to users and buy them more time to make different choices.

”Molly was my son’s high school sweetheart,” explained Christi Berrong-Barber. “She died in November of 2019 of a fentanyl overdose.”

Christi Berrong-Barber started the Molly Angel Project in her honor. Her son has dealt with his own addiction.

“Before his 18th birthday, he had overdosed and had coded three times,” she said. “All three times, Narcan was used to resuscitate him.”

Through her organization, she now helps connect others to Narcan, the opioid reversal medicine that can be costly. But come July, she’ll add to those offerings.

“I’m very excited about being able to add fentanyl testing strips to that arsenal that we have to help people,” she added.

End It For Good is a Mississippi-based group trying to change the drug conversation.

“We we see drugs as a health issue, not a criminal one. And the first step is preserving life. First life, then health. We cannot revive someone from the grave. If they are still alive, we can rehabilitate them.”

End It For Good CEO Brett Montague thinks education will be the other piece to making fentanyl testing strips’ availability successful.

“I think it’s bringing those types of stories to college kids to fraternities to say, this could be you,” he said. “And it’s not because you’re a bad person. But these aren’t statistics and we want you to have a second chance to get that future.”

It’s a policy change that the Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics’s Executive Director Colonel Steven Maxwell is supportive of.

“We don’t believe that making these test strips available and removing fentanyl testers from the definition of paraphernalia is going to proliferate drug use or exacerbate any issues that already exist with regards to the use of illicit drugs,” said Colonel Steven Maxwell. “But we do feel that it is a step forward in reducing the harm associated with ingesting fentanyl.”

The law takes effect on July 1.

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