CAMDEN, NJ — Participants in Camden will be key in efforts to lessen opioid-related deaths through a pilot program approved by the Freeholder Board in February.
Testing kits, which will be distributed as early as April, will allow individuals to test substances for the presence of fentanyl prior to use.
The pilot program calls for a three- to six-month trial period with participants from the city.
“It has become increasingly common for fentanyl to make its way into heroin, but also cocaine and methamphetamine supplies with many users, and often even dealers, unaware of its presence,” said Freeholder Director Louis Cappelli. “Drug use is inherently laden with health risks, but fentanyl poses a unique threat because it is so often ingested unknowingly. This program aims to arm users with the tools to test for it, and to give them the chance to opt for a safer alternative.”
Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid pain reliever, is 50 to 100 times as potent as morphine.
In combating opioid-related deaths, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has identified the “Third Wave” of the epidemic. Since 2013 the majority of deaths are linked to synthetic opioids, chiefly fentanyl.
Between 2015 and 2019, officials said drug-related deaths increased by 75 percent — concurrently 66 percent of suspected heroin submissions “contained Fentanyl or a Fentanyl class compound.”
“Drug overdose is preventable, that’s the message we’re trying to send to the folks who need to hear it most,” added Cappelli. “This is an opportunity to study another measure that we believe could be critical in minimizing the number of lives lost to this nationwide epidemic each year. If you use one of these strips and it comes back positive for fentanyl, you’ve just been given a second chance at life. We’re proud to offer that to anyone we can.”
The pilot program will make use of the fentanyl testing strips (FTS), which have been successful in helping to prevent fentanyl exposure and accidental overdose.
A group of self-reported drug users will complete a qualitative survey and receive a brief overdose education with FTS training.
At distribution sites that are TBA, participants will receive the test kits, which include 10 FTS strips, Narcan with instructions and a help list for treatment and recovery options.
Between 500 and 1,000 kits will be handed out.
“Each participant will return two to four weeks after training to complete a follow-up and answer questions regarding their experience with FTS,” officials from Camden County said in a release.
This includes whether the participants used any of the items in the kit, and if they shared the information they received with others.