MILWAUKEE — Sen. Lena Taylor and State Rep. Sylvia Ortiz-Velez are working alongside community members to legalize Fentanyl test strips to help prevent fatal overdoses.
"Fentanyl deaths have risen over the course of years," said Sen. Taylor.
Deaths connected to Fentanyl are increasing at an alarming rate throughout Milwaukee County. The potent synthetic opioid is often added to other drugs.
In 2020, a record-high of 545 drug overdose deaths was recorded in Milwaukee County. Of those deaths, 75% involved Fentanyl.
"It's really cruel that people would mix Fentanyl in so many things. But because they are and because people don't know, it gives them such ability to really stop what could turn into a tragic event," said Taylor.
Raphael Mercado is the founder of HAVOC, a community group working to help those dealing with opioid addiction. Mercado lost four cousins to drug overdoses and has seen firsthand the effects the epidemic has had in his community near Mitchell Park.
"Right now, we got a lot of drug dealers that swear that they’re chemists. They’re mixing a deadly substance known as Fentanyl into cocaine, heroin and other drugs," said Mercado.
He believes these Fentanyl test strips will help prevent many deaths. "Little things like this save lives," he said.
Furthermore, they believe the test strips can help first responders respond to various incidents.
"The first responders usually are there right here on the street when there’s an overdose. We don’t want them accidentally overdosing, because you can just touch the Fentanyl and it’s going to go into your system and you can overdose and die," said Mercado.
However, the bill is still pending and lawmakers will need to exclude the test strips from the definition of drug paraphernalia.
"And so I think the biggest push back is people who believe it’s promoting or encouraging drug use, instead of seeing the lives that it saves," said Sen. Taylor.