(MINEOLA, N.Y.) - Flanked by community leaders and recovery advocates on the front steps of the Theodore Roosevelt Executive & Legislative Building, Nassau County Legislators Delia DeRiggi-Whitton (D - Glen Cove), Arnold W. Drucker (D - Plainview) and Debra Mulé (D - Freeport) unveiled legislation on Tuesday, June 21 that would require the inclusion of fentanyl-detecting test strips in Narcan kits distributed by Nassau County agencies.
Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid which experts at the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) have determined is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine. The consumption of fentanyl-laced drugs - often unbeknownst to the user - has resulted in a tragic increase in the number of overdose deaths amidst the ongoing opioid drug crisis in Nassau County and across America.
Including fentanyl testing strips with Narcan kits would serve as a low-cost way of potentially identifying tainted drugs and preventing accidental overdoses. Individuals dissolve substances they wish to test in water and dip a strip into the solution. The strips require only minimal amounts of drug residue to work properly, and results are generally available within five minutes.
Findings from the 2018 FORECAST study conducted by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health determined the inexpensive strips are simple to use and have a high level of accuracy in detecting fentanyl in drug samples.
“Fentanyl has dramatically raised the stakes of our ongoing battle to conquer the opioid drug addiction crisis,” Legislator DeRiggi-Whitton, ranking member of the Nassau County Legislature’s Health & Social Services Committee, said. “Distributing these strips will give residents another tool for preventing the devastation caused by fatal overdoses. Most importantly, it will keep the door open for anyone who is struggling with addiction to ultimately get the treatment they need to achieve long-term recovery.”
“For many years, we have witnessed the life-saving capabilities of Narcan and how receiving a reprieve from an overdose can be a catalyst for successful treatment and long-term recovery,” Legislator Mulé said. “Pairing fentanyl detection testing strips with the Narcan kits we distribute is a common-sense way for Nassau County to accelerate our collective efforts to prevent overdoses and save lives."
“As the battleground in the opioid drug crisis shifts, we must adapt our strategies to save more lives and give more residents the best possible chance at achieving long-term recovery,” Legislator Drucker said. “By including fentanyl detection testing strips in the Narcan kits that County agencies distribute, we have an opportunity to quickly ramp up our ability to uncloak this silent, stealthy killer - one that would otherwise lurk in the shadows.”
In December 2021, Suffolk County passed similar legislation to require the inclusion of fentanyl testing strips in the Narcan strips they distribute. Here in Nassau, Keisha Graham-Wilson, of the Hicksville-based Central Nassau Guidance and Counseling Services, Inc., said the agency has been including Fentanyl testing strips in the Narcan test kits it distributes for the last several months. Kits come with directions stapled to the package; the proposed Nassau legislation similarly require instructions to be included with all testing kits that are distributed.
“These test strips are so important in terms of preventing overdoses,” Graham-Wilson said. “Individuals don’t realize that fentanyl is in substances that they are using. We have individuals that have told us they are only using marijuana, but when we do toxicology, sometimes we have to tell them that the substance they are using is laced with fentanyl - and they are so shocked and surprised.”
Additional recovery advocates and community leaders from across the County expressed their support for the proposal. They agreed that fentanyl test strips are yet another tool that can be utilized to prevent overdoses and save lives.
"Because fentanyl is 40 to 50 times stronger than heroin, it is possible that a fentanyl overdose victim may not respond to just one dose of Narcan,” said Claudia Rotondo, Executive Director of the Baldwin Council Against Drug Abuse. “Providing these strips could be life-saving because it would give us the ability to test the remnants of the substance that was ingested to see if it was cut with fentanyl."
“The DEA warned several months ago that fentanyl was a driving force behind the majority of overdoses that have transpired in the last year,” said Dr. Sharon Harris, Executive Director of the Glen Cove-based Substance Abuse Free Environments (SAFE). “This is an incredibly important piece of information that needs to be promoted to educate our youth and our families an educate our youth and our families about what is going on.”
“This is very important legislation, and I am sure both sides will agree to this,” said Jeff Stone, President of Port Washington-based Project Help Long Island. “Fentanyl is a huge scourge on our society - plain and simple.”
PHOTO CAPTION (LEFT PHOTO) - Keisha Graham-Wilson, of Central Nassau Guidance and Counseling Services, Inc., displays a fentanyl test strip kit outside the Theodore Roosevelt Executive & Legislative Building on Tuesday, June 21, 2022.
PHOTO CAPTION (RIGHT PHOTO) - Legislators Debra Mulé, Arnold W. Drucker and Delia DeRiggi-Whitton introduce legislation to require the inclusion of fentanyl test strips in Narcan kits on Tuesday, June 21.
PHOTO CREDITS - Office of the Nassau County Legislature Minority