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La Crosse County distributing fentanyl test strips throughout community

Published: Jun. 22, 2022 at 5:15 PM CDT
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LA CROSSE, Wis. (WEAU) - La Crosse County officials are hoping to prevent overdose deaths caused by fentanyl.

The La Crosse County Medical Examiner reported 31 overdoses in 2021, which followed a record number of 40 in 2020.

More than half of the overdoses in both years included fentanyl, following a trend across Wisconsin of a rising number of deaths caused by the opioid.

Gov. Evers signed a trio of bills into law earlier this year to try and turn the tide, one of which increased the penalties for fentanyl distribution.

Another of the bills decriminalized fentanyl test strips, which were considered drug paraphernalia under previous state statutes.

The strips can help identify whether a substance is laced with fentanyl, which could help prevent an accidental overdose.

La Crosse County recently acquired 2,500 test strips thanks to a State Opioid Resource Grant, and began distributing them to different community service agencies and health care providers on Tuesday.

Coulee Recovery Center has a treatment navigator that will have test strips available for people who access services there,” said Anneliese Skoda with La Crosse County Human Services. “The REACH Center in La Crosse, they’ll have some strips available, and then at Human Services, if people come in and ask for them, we’ll be able to connect them to people who are able to provide the strips.”

Skoda says people who are given a packet of test strips will also be provided with information on local resources that can help with substance use disorders.

Ultimately, Skoda hopes the strips both save lives and encourage people to seek help.

“No drug use is safe, even if you use the fentanyl test strips, there’s no guarantee that what someone is using is not going to be harmful in some way,” Skoda expressed. “Our end goal for people is to be able to help them to get to the best life that they can, which in most cases would be recovery for someone, but if they accidentally overdose and die, they obviously won’t be able to get to those resources.”

There were 146 overdose deaths in La Crosse County between 2017-2021, and 99 included fentanyl.

So far this year, the county Medical Examiner reports 13 overdose deaths, with another 21 suspected, but there’s no information on whether fentanyl was involved in any of the cases.

More information on fentanyl test strips and substance use treatment services can be found by contacting La Crosse County Human Services at 608-784-4357.

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