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CLEVELAND- Circle Health Services, a community clinic in Cleveland, is giving out fentanyl test strips to drug users who come into their needle exchange looking for services.

“Most of the drugs, 85%-90% of the drugs, are laced with fentanyl. So this gives people a chance to use differently, maybe slower, use less, or maybe not use that drug at all,” said Lisa Fair, a program director at Circle Health Services.

The Cuyahoga County Alcohol Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services Board is funding 15,000 of the test strips for Circle Health Services, which has given out 1,500 of the strips so far.

Users are given three strips in each kit and work similarly to a pregnancy test. The strip is placed into the drug residue and if one strip appears, there is fentanyl present; if there are two lines that means there is not fentanyl present.

“We want people to have a chance to live. If people die from a fentanyl related overdose then they don’t have another day; you can’t go back,” said Fair.

Fentanyl is responsible for a massive surge in deaths in 2016 and continues to cause overdoses today.

“It was shocking, really; we went from under 100 to 400 in one year and that was really when we saw fentanyl really infiltrate the drug market in Cuyahoga County,” said Dr. Thomas Gilson, the county’s medical examiner.

The medical examiner’s office had a 30% increase in its caseload largely because of drug-related deaths.

“We have an obligation to try and save people’s lives so people have to make the decision that they want to go ahead and get treatment, that they need treatment for heroin addiction,” said Scott Osiecki, CEO of the ADAMHS Board.

Officials at Circle Health Services say not only do the test strips save lives, but they give users an opportunity to hear about treatment options and volunteer to go into treatment.

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