After reading this article, if you feel compelled to write a letter to Florida state house members and the governor in order to ask them to approve house bill 165, the counterpart to the bill the senate approved, I have attached a letter.
ISaveFL.com – Free Narcan No Questions Asked
UPDATE: Since the original writing of this article, there has been some positive motion! The Florida state senate and house unanimously approved testing strips for the sake of testing for fentanyl in a controlled substance. The bill is now ready to be sent to the governor for final approval or veto. https://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2023/165
During my orientation day with the IDEA Syringe Exchange, I heard that Florida’s current laws surrounding usage of fentanyl testing strips make it illegal to possess or use them due to them being considered drug paraphernalia. Amongst all the amazing work the IDEA Syringe Exchange does for the community, I was appalled they were not allowed to intervene with such a simple strip that can save so many lives. With the goal of the Exchange being to reduce overdoses and infection within the community, it seems like a no-brainer. The CDC outlines how Fentanyl Testing Strips (FTS) are a low-cost option for testing drugs for fentanyl content that are simple to read. Further the CDC in 2021, in coordination with Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), garnered federal funding for FTS, allowing for grants to make them even more accessible. All of these combined set the stage for the growing push to legalizing FTS, with Alabama, Louisiana, and Tennessee recently legalizing.
FTS are currently illegal in Florida and 18 other states in the US. The 1973 establishment of the DEA led to the 1979 guidelines for the criminalization of all drug paraphernalia, which was considered to be anything that aided in the usage of drugs. These dated guidelines continue to influence the laws today, which has led to Florida legislation still being unwilling to decriminalize testing. The director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse at the National Institutes of Health, Dr. Nora Volkow, has made it clear that all states must see FTS as a tool to empower people who use drugs to do them safely.
The scope of the opioid epidemic in our country, Florida, and just Hillsborough County is very important to this conversation. The Tampa Bay Area experiences overdoses at a rate 50% higher than the national average and 9% above the Florida average. Florida ranks 2nd after California for overdose deaths. Fentanyl is killing Americans at alarming rates, and requires a small amount to be potent, which FTS can detect.
Fentanyl Testing Strips are a commonsense intervention to save lives. This simply should be enough for their decriminalization in the state of Florida. With state funded organizations such as the IDEA Syringe Exchange being in the prime position to distribute them, the implementation would be seamless as well. Thus, I call on the lawmakers for the state of Florida to protect our citizens and make this a reality.
Make sure to at least include the state representative and governor in the following letter, as they are next in line to approve the bill!
Dear State Senator Darryl Ervin Rouson (https://www.flsenate.gov/Senators/Find), State Representative Dianne Hart (https://www.myfloridahouse.gov/Sections/Representatives/representatives.aspx), Governor Ron DeSantis, Congresswoman Kathy Castor (https://www.congress.gov/members/find-your-member)
As a resident of ____, Florida, I wanted to write this message to express my intense support for House Bill 165 supporting the legalization of Fentanyl Testing Strips in the state of Florida, following the suit of 31 other states in America where they are legalized, most recently including Alabama, Louisiana, and Tennessee. The Tampa Bay Area experiences overdoses at a rate 50% higher than the national average and 9% above the Florida average. As a medical student, it is paramount to know that the world of medicine we will be entering supports our patients’ rights and health to the greatest degree. The call to legalize fentanyl testing strips will save lives and improve population health. Thank you for taking the time to listen to this call for action.
Cover picture from https://www.cdc.gov/stopoverdose/fentanyl/fentanyl-test-strips.html