Camden County launches pilot program to help reduce fentanyl-related deaths

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Camden County officials have launched a pilot program in the hopes to reduce the number of overdose incidents and deaths related to fentanyl.

“We never had, until this year, people calling for treatment and we ask them, ‘What are you using?’ They say, ‘Fentanyl,’” says John Pellicane with the Camden County Office of Mental Health and Addiction.

While the opioid epidemic is not new, Camden County officials say that they are looking for new ways to right it. This time will involve using fentanyl test strip kits.

“The fentanyl test strips are actually another opportunity to kind of say, ‘We know that you're not ready for treatment but at least we can protect you from hopefully a fatal overdose,’" Pellicane says.

County freeholders approved the program, which will be distributed testing trips to active drug users, mostly in the Camden city areas. Users can then test the drugs they're about to use - whether it be heroin, cocaine, or methamphetamines - to see if it may be laced with deadly fentanyl. Users will be asked to give feedback on whether they used the strips, and what results they saw.

"This is in no way encourages drug use. For those who are suffering from this disease and can't find a way out of it yet it makes their addiction and drug use safer,” says Camden County Freeholder Director Louis Cappelli Jr.

Each kit will also provide information about who to reach out to if the user is ready to get help for their addiction.

"For us, it's incredibly important to make sure that by getting involved with harm reduction that there's always this running opportunity that says, ‘We want you to get into treatment. We can get you into treatment,’” Pellicane says.

The program will run for three to six months. The freeholders say that if the program is effective in reducing overdoses, it will be continued.

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