BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Leaders representing MedStar Health’s three Baltimore hospitals said a program offering patients free fentanyl test kits is helping people find a path to recovery.
In September, the trio of hospitals started offering the test kits for free, the first hospitals in the state to do so.
While some question the tool’s effectiveness, MedStar director of community health Ryan Moran said it’s working.
“We’re seeing about eight to 10 patients a month that we’re providing the test strips to,” Moran said.
Patients identified as at risk of drug overdose are paired with a peer recovery coach who can connect the patient with resources.
“We’re providing harm-reduction tools to patients to empower them to make their decisions about their substance use,” Moran said.
Experts say fentanyl is nearly 100 times stronger than morphine and can easily be mixed in with other drugs to increase potency.
“It counts for about 82 percent of all deaths in the state of Maryland in the past few years,” Moran said.
People often don’t realize fentanyl is mixed in with a drug. That’s where doctors hope the two-inch test strips can potentially save lives.
“If the person knows that they’re substances are present with fentanyl, they’ll either use less, they’ll abstain from use at all or they’ll use with a friend with a naloxone kit nearby,” Moran said.
The controversy, though, lies within the function of the strips: could they instead enable users to keep using?
“Someone who really wants to use the drug is not going to actually test it; they just want to take the drug,” Baltimore resident Carol said.
MedStar Health, however, said it has seen the opposite.
“It’s creating a conversation within the community, it’s creating conversations with patients (and) their family members about having tools in order to aid them in their knowledge of their overall use,” Moran said.