~~Fentanyl Test Strips Legalized in Kansas, U.S. Food and Drug Administration Approved First Over-the-Counter Naloxone Nasal Spray in March to Combat Opioid Crisis~~
TOPEKA – As National Substance Abuse Prevention Month comes to a close, Governor Laura Kelly is encouraging Kansans to use new tools to fight the opioid crisis. In May, Governor Kelly signed Senate Bill 174, a bipartisan bill decriminalizing the sale and distribution of fentanyl test strips (FTS). Kansas joined other states in legalizing FTS as a low-cost method of preventing drug overdoses through the detection of fentanyl in illicit drugs, in pills, powders, or injectables. Signing this legislation opened doors to more funding for test strips, other lifesaving medications, and education campaigns.
“The decriminalization of fentanyl test strips is a prime example of the good we can achieve when we meet in the middle to make real progress,” Governor Laura Kelly said. “I encourage all Kansans to use these new tools to reduce overdose deaths in Kansas.”
The Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) reports a 130% increase in synthetic opioid deaths (which can include fentanyl) in 2020 over 2019 and a 115% increase in 2021 over 2020. The Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services (KDADS), in collaboration with KDHE, is promoting the rapid testing strips as a harm reduction tactic capable of bringing overdose numbers down in the state.
“I believe the bipartisan effort we are seeing across the country to legalize these harm reduction tools reflects a major shift in attitudes toward prevention efforts and potentially keeping people alive,” KDADS Secretary Laura Howard said. “We can’t guarantee these tools will prevent all drug use, but they can certainly encourage people to reconsider drug use, take precautions to lower their risk, or reach out for help.”
“Communities in our state have been devastated by overdoses caused by fentanyl,” KDHE Secretary Janet Stanek. “The decriminalization of fentanyl testing strips means we now have one more tool in place to help protect Kansans in our state who might have otherwise lost their life.”
In addition to using FTS to detect fentanyl, there are other ways to lower the risk of overdose. One is by keeping naloxone readily available. Naloxone is a widely used medication that rapidly reverses the life-threatening effects of opioid overdose, credited with saving lives. It is carried and used by paramedics, police officers, and community groups.
In March, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved Narcan nasal spray for over-the-counter, nonprescription use, making it the first naloxone product approved to be sold directly to consumers. While the timeline for availability and price of naloxone is determined by the manufacturer of the product, Kansas is already seeing progress in establishing access in the state.
The Kansas Naloxone Program is a contract partnership with DCCCA, a regional nonprofit organization that provides social and community services for Kansans. Through funding from KDADS’ State Opioid Response (SOR) grant initiative, DCCCA provides free naloxone nasal spray and training to community organizations and any Kansan. Visit dccca.org/naloxone-program to request a naloxone kit or training.