UPDATE 11/13/2018: Tonight, the DC Council approved a new emergency measure renewing the decriminalization of drug testing kits. This allows HIPS to continue distributing and people to continue using fentanyl testing kits to stay safe, alive, and thriving. Thank you to all who showed your support for this measure!!
On November 8th, one of our life saving tools will become ILLEGAL.
To address the continuing overdose crisis, the DC Council enacted an temporary measure to decriminalize drug testing kits in 2017, which has allowed HIPS and other community organizations to distribute fentanyl testing strips. However, this temporary measure will expire on November 8th.
The District of Columbia Office of the Chief Medical Examiner's 2018 data shows that fentanyl is present in 90% of opioid overdoses in the District. Testing kits allow people to know when fentanyl present. When folks can identify fentanyl, they can reduce their dose or avoid a supply altogether.
People can protect themselves when they know what they're using. These fentanyl testing strips are saving lives everyday -- but, after November 8, giving people this lifesaving tool will be illegal.
Call on your Councilmembers to continue allowing HIPS and other community organizations to distribute this lifesaving tool.
Dear Chairman Phil Mendelson, Councilmember Charles Allen, Councilmember Anita Bonds, Councilmember Mary M. Cheh, Councilmember Jack Evans, Councilmember David Grosso, Councilmember Vincent C. Gray, Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie, Councilmember Brianne Nadeau, Councilmember Elissa Silverman, Councilmember Brandon Todd, Councilmember Robert White, Jr., and Councilmember Trayon White, Sr.:
The current "Controlled Substance Testing Temporary Amendment Act of 2017" has decriminalized the possession of drug testing kits and has allowed syringe exchange programs and other community based organizations to distribute drug testing kits, including life-saving fentanyl testing kits. Drug checking, including fentanyl testing kits, is a harm reduction service that can reduce overdose fatalities by detecting dangerous adulterants like fentanyl.
Allowing this temporary measure to expire on November 8th could prove fatal to our friends, family, and neighbors.
Fentanyl is impacting people across the District. HIPS has seen fentanyl present in the vast majority of returned testing strips (a review of a random group of test strips returned to HIPS showed 91.6% tested positive for fentanyl), and the District of Columbia Office of the Chief Medical Examiner's 2018 data shows that fentanyl is present in 90% of opioid overdose deaths in the District. Testing kits are saving lives by allowing individuals to know what they are using. Informed people are able to make informed choices, often reducing dose of or avoiding substances containing fentanyl.
Now, it is as important as ever that we continue to allow use of this common sense measure to reduce overdose deaths. Imposing criminal sanctions for possession or distribution of fentanyl testing kits could prove fatal. Do not impose criminal consequences for implementing harm reduction practices. Continue allowing HIPS and other community based organizations to distribute life-saving drug checking kits.