WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) announced recently that federal funding may now be used to purchase rapid fentanyl test strips (FTS) in an effort to help curb the dramatic spike in drug overdose deaths largely driven by the use of strong synthetic opioids, including illicitly manufactured fentanyl.
FTS can be used to determine if drugs have been mixed or cut with fentanyl, providing people who use drugs and communities with important information about fentanyl in the illicit drug supply so they can take steps to reduce their risk of overdose.
“This is a major step forward in the ongoing and critical work to prevent overdose and connect people who have substance use disorders to evidence-based treatment options,” said Acting Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Use Tom Coderre, the interim leader at SAMHSA. “This will save lives by providing tools to identify the growing presence of fentanyl in the nation’s illicit drug supply and – partnered with referrals to treatment – complement SAMHSA’s daily work to direct help to more Americans.”
Approximately 88,000 drug overdose deaths occurred in the United States in the 12 months ending in August 2020, the highest number of overdose deaths ever recorded in a 12-month period, according to provisional data from CDC, and overdose deaths have continued to accelerate during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We must do all we can to save lives from drug overdoses,” said CDC Director Rochelle P. Walensky, MD, MPH. “The increase in drug overdose deaths related to synthetic opioids such as illicitly made fentanyl is a public health crisis that requires immediate action and novel strategies. State and local programs now have another tool to add to their on-the-ground efforts toward reducing and preventing overdoses, in particular fentanyl-related overdose deaths.”
Overdose response programs funded through the following awards will be directly impacted and can now use program funds to purchase FTS.
CDC’s multiyear Overdose Data to Action cooperative agreement began in September 2019 and funds health departments in 47 states; Washington, D.C.; two territories; and 16 cities and counties for drug overdose surveillance and prevention efforts. Funds awarded as part of this agreement support health departments in obtaining high-quality, more comprehensive, and timelier data on overdose morbidity and mortality and using those data to implement prevention and response efforts.
SAMHSA’s State Opioid Response (SOR) grant aims to address the opioid crisis by increasing access to medication-assisted treatment, reducing unmet treatment need and reducing opioid overdose-related deaths through supporting prevention, treatment, and recovery activities for opioid use disorder. SOR supplements current state and territory opioid-related activities and supports a comprehensive response to the opioid epidemic.
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