Your Turn: I’m a sheriff and I support fentanyl testing strips

photo by: Jenn Hethcoat/Contributed Photo

Douglas County Sheriff Jay Armbrister is pictured on Wednesday, Nov. 25, 2020.

As the Douglas County sheriff, I take my responsibility seriously in doing everything I can to keep our community safe. But our community, like many others across this country, has not been immune to the public health epidemic caused by pills laced with the opioid fentanyl.

A study conducted by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment found that Kansas drug overdose deaths increased by over 73% between 2011 and 2020. More than half of opioid-related deaths involved fentanyl. Douglas County is ranked as one of the most vulnerable counties to opioid overdoses.

Fentanyl is killing my community members. It’s killing our sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, moms and dads, and friends and loved ones across our state and across this country. We’ve all heard the heartbreaking stories about the lives lost to fentanyl. Kids, as young as 13, have lost their lives to this dangerous drug. But it’s avoidable.

Fentanyl testing strips allow individuals to test substances for the presence of fentanyl before consuming them. They would also identify the presence of gamma-hydroxybutyric acid — known informally as a date rape drug. Legalizing testing strips is a common-sense policy that has the potential to save countless lives and keep members of our communities safe from threats of violence.

Opponents of legalizing fentanyl testing strips want you to believe this will lead to increased drug consumption. There is no evidence that supports this. In fact, it has the potential to serve as a much-needed wake-up call to our community members struggling with addiction, showing them in real time the risks associated with drug use and how one bad decision could be fatal.

Opponents also want you to believe that those in law enforcement oppose this policy. Let me be clear: I support legalizing fentanyl testing strips because I know they would save the lives of members of our communities. To those that oppose legalizing fentanyl testing strips: I want you to dig deep and ask yourself why you are opposed to this policy that would save lives. Does your opposition to individuals’ choices outweigh their right to live? Do you find so little value in saving the life of someone struggling with addiction? Are you willing to stand in front of a mother and tell her that her child’s life was not worth saving? Do you feel those struggling with addiction have no value to our community or our world? These are the questions we must ask.

States across our country have taken the necessary step to start saving lives by legalizing fentanyl test strips. In the past year, Ohio, Georgia, Virginia, West Virginia and Tennessee have all legalized fentanyl test strips. Just last week, Mississippi did the same. This is not a Democratic issue or a Republican issue. It’s a matter of life and death for members of our communities.

I strongly urge the Kansas Legislature to move quickly to enact HB 2390 to start saving lives today.

— Jay Armbrister was elected sheriff of Douglas County in 2020.


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