Mass. police departments distribute fentanyl test kits to drug users

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Eleven police departments across Massachusetts are taking part in a three-month experimental project distributing fentanyl test kits to drug users to prevent overdoses in collaboration with a Boston-based nonprofit, police said Saturday.

The Police Assisted Addiction and Recovery Initiative (P.A.A.R.I.) started distributing rapid test kits last week through police that are capable of rapidly detecting fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that is far more potent than heroin, according to a statement from the organization.

“The test strips offer an additional layer of protection against fatal overdoses by informing users of the presence of potentially lethal fentanyl,” the statement said.

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The pilot program is funded by a $150,000 grant from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. The program will run through June before being evaluated by researchers from Brandeis University.

Local police will give the kits to drug users to “develop trust and build relationships with community members struggling with substance use disorders,” according to the statement.

Each kit contains three fentanyl test strips and literature with resources for drug users. A test strip, when dipped in drug residue from a pill bottle or baggy mixed with a small amount of water, can detect the presence of fentanyl within minutes according to a training video released by P.A.A.R.I.

The participating police departments are in Beverly, Chicopee, Edgartown, Holyoke, Ipswich, Lynn, Methuen, New Bedford, Taunton, Whitman, and Winthrop.

“As public servants, our police officers are tasked with protecting and serving all members of our community. P.A.A.R.I. just increased our ability to do that by building upon what is usually found in outreach kits,” Sergeant Sarko Gergerian of Winthrop Police, said in the release.

“The Fentanyl Test Strip Pilot allows us another opportunity to offer treatment options outside of the confinements of traditional law enforcement activities,” Whitman Police Chief Timothy Hanlon said.

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“Our law enforcement partners continue to serve on the front lines of the opioid epidemic and we are hopeful that this will provide them with a new tool in their toolkit to assist with access to treatment and lifesaving services,” PA.A.R.I. Executive Director Allie Hunter said.

The pilot program is funded by a $150,000 grant from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. The program will run through June before being evaluated by researchers from Brandeis University.


Max Jungreis can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @MaxJungreis