State Sen. Tina Polsky and State Rep. Christine Hunschofsky today filed SB 164 and HB 165, respectively, to decriminalize the use of Fentanyl test strips in Florida.
Fentanyl test strips are a low-cost method of helping prevent drug overdoses and reducing harm. The U.S. drug-overdose epidemic continues to worsen as the number of deaths grew by nearly 15% in 2021—a grim total fueled by a 23% rise in the number of deaths linked to illicitly manufactured fentanyl—highlighting a need to encourage harm-reduction measures.
Recently released CDC data shows that opioids cause nine out of 10 teen deaths, and fentanyl is the most common opioid involved. In many cases, teens are dying from counterfeit prescription pills that contain fentanyl, an opioid 50 times more potent than heroin.
Announcing SB 164, Sen. Polsky said, “The law should have been changed last session, but now we have a chance to do the right thing this year and save lives. It’s past time that our state join more than 30 states that have adopted similar laws.”
Representative Hunschofsky said, “At a time when we are experiencing a record number of deaths due to fentanyl-laced drugs, it is imperative that we do all we can to prevent future deaths. By legalizing fentanyl test strips in the State of Florida, we are taking a common-sense approach and adding another tool in the harm reduction toolbox that we know will save lives.”
Palm Beach County State Attorney Dave Aronberg said, “You can’t arrest your way out of an opioid epidemic. Harm reduction is an important part of the solution. This good bill is an easy and inexpensive way to save many lives.”
Palm Beach County Sheriff Ric Bradshaw adds, “I support any tool we can use to help prevent overdose deaths.”
The Florida Medical Association likewise supports this measure. Beth Weinstock M.D., Executive Director of BirdieLight, said, “Our organization was founded six months after my 19-year old son Eli (nephew of Congressman Ted Deutch) died from an accidental fentanyl ingestion. I can’t help but think that if he’d had access at the time to fentanyl education as well as life-saving test strips, he would be alive today, as would thousands of other young people across our country who have succumbed to this massive public health crisis. I’m thrilled to see many states, including my home state of Ohio within the last month, see the risk-reduction potential of these test strips. This is a complex problem that will most likely be solved by a coordinated and multifaceted approach; fentanyl test strips are going to be a major component of this solution.”