IH offering fentanyl test kits

Interior Health partner locations in the Okanagan Valley and beyond are participating in a research program evaluating the safety of take-home fentanyl drug checking kits as part of a province-wide response to the overdose crisis. 

Vancouver Coastal Health and the BC Centre for Disease Control are spearheading the program to determine whether take-home kits are reliable for use without a healthcare professional. IH is partnering on the project.

"We are expanding our current community-based drug checking sites to allow an opportunity for people to use a take-home kit," said Jessica Bridgeman, regional harm reduction coordinator with IH.

"They'll get a little bit of training and information on how to use the test, how to interpret it as well as any limitations, and then they'll get to go home with five test trips and be able to test their substances in the privacy of wherever they might be."

Kits will be available for free at the ASK Wellness Centres in Kamloops and Merritt, at ANKORS in Cranbrook and Nelson, at SOWINS in Penticton, in Kelowna at the Living Positive Resource Centre and in Vernon at the Cammy LaFleur Street Outreach Clinic.

Clients will receive five free test strips, with instructions, to take home so they can check whether their substances possibly contain fentanyl, the toxin contaminating the illegal drug supply, which was responsible for approximately 87 per cent of illicit drug overdose deaths in 2018 in B.C.

The test strips were originally developed to check urine for the presence of fentanyl but in July 2016 in light of the overdose crisis, VCH pioneered the use of the strips to check the drugs themselves for fentanyl.

A small amount of a drug is mixed with a few drops of water, the test strip is inserted into the solution, and a positive or negative for fentanyl is revealed within seconds.

"Using the test strips has shown that when people get a positive fentanyl result they are more likely to reduce their dose and less likely to overdose," said Dr. Mark Lysyshyn, medical health officer, VCH.

"So we know that drug checking can help people make safer, more informed choices, and can prevent overdose deaths."

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