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Truth Pharm hopes to fight overdose deaths with fentanyl test strips

(WBNG) — One local organization is hoping to fight overdose deaths in a new way.

“For the parents out there who’ve lost a loved one, that’s a permanent condition, if somebody dies, they’re gone forever,” said Truth Pharm’s Executive Director Alexis Pleus.

She says in the last few weeks, there’s been an uptick in overdose deaths.

“Once the community members who are using substances let me know that there was pure fentanyl coming in the area and they even said, one of them said to me, it’s going to be a war zone, he said there’s going to be more deaths.”

That new strategy is fentanyl test strips.

“Say they think they bought heroin, but it actually has other things in it, so what we’re trying to do is reduce those surprises.”

When dipped in drug residue, Truth Pharm says the strip will tell you if there is fentanyl present.

Tino Fuentes, a former drug user and dealer, was brought in by the organization to train and educate people about the tool.

“You can take drugs it’s fine, I mean me personally I don’t care, you do what you want to do, but you should know what you have, what’s in your drugs, if you don’t know that’s what could cause you to die,” said Fuentes.

Some may wonder if this method is enabling drug use, so 12 News asked Fuentes about his take on the question.

“No, I mean people are going to do drugs regardless, I mean before these strips people were doing drugs, this is just a tool to hopefully have somebody save their life.”

We also asked about where the money for this project is coming from.

Pleus said, “We actually can’t, because the funder, yeah we can’t, we secured funding, but the funder isn’t supposed to spend it on fentanyl testing stuff and so all they wanted us to say was that we secured funding.”

Regardless, the group says it’s approaching overdoses before they happen.

“Would you rather have somebody die? Would that be better? I mean that’s the alternative, test your drugs and know what’s in it, or not give them out and people keep on dying,” said Fuentes.

Pleus says when people are linked to harm reduction services like these strips, recovery is more likely.

For the next few days, Truth Pharm is hosting workshops for community members to learn how to use the strips.

They’ll also be providing free strips.

You can find the details of the events on their Facebook page here.

Julia Gorman

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