Advocacy Alert: Senators Hassan and Cornyn Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Expand Access to Test Strips for Fentanyl and Xylazine

September 29, 2023

via Senator Hassan's website

U.S. Senators Maggie Hassan (D-NH) and John Cornyn (R-TX) introduced the bipartisan Advancing Lifesaving Efforts with Rapid Test Strips for Communities Act (ALERT Communities Act) to help expand access to fentanyl and xylazine test strips, a critical tool to help lower overdose deaths.

“Combating the opioid epidemic and reducing overdose deaths requires an all-hands-on-deck approach, and expanding access to test strips gives us another vital resource in our efforts,” Senator Hassan said. “By expanding access to test strips for deadly substances like fentanyl and xylazine, we can save lives and help our first responders in their work to keep our communities safe.”

“Fentanyl overdose deaths have skyrocketed, and test strips can help stop this alarming trend by preventing victims from accidentally taking a pill laced with this deadly drug,” said Senator Cornyn. “This legislation will help prevent fentanyl poisonings by improving the quality and effectiveness of fentanyl test strips and will save lives.”

“New Futures stands strongly in support of the ALERT Communities Act, which is certain to help save lives across the country,” said Kate Frey, Vice President of Advocacy at New Futures, a leading health policy and advocacy organization in New Hampshire. “This important legislation builds upon the work of Granite State lawmakers and harm reduction advocates to increase access to fentanyl and xylazine testing strips, and will ensure they remain available for purchase and distribution all across the country. These testing strips are life-saving tools that will help New Hampshire and our country as a whole to better combat the ongoing addiction crisis and the increasingly contaminated drug market. We appreciate Sen. Hassan’s tireless work to introduce this bill, and we look forward to working with her to pass it into law.”

This legislation would ensure that state and local communities can use State Opioid Response grants and First Responder overdose response grants to purchase and distribute test strips for fentanyl or xylazine. Since 2017, Senator Hassan has successfully worked to secure a nine-fold increase in State Opioid Response grant funding for New Hampshire. Last year, the state received more than $28.5 million through this program.

Senator Hassan and Cornyn’s legislation would also require that the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS), via the National Institute for Drug Abuse and the Food and Drug Administration, develop and publish a research framework for innovation in test strip technology. This guidance will support efforts to continue improving the quality of test strips, including test strips that can identify potential new deadly substances that may be developed in the years to come.

The bill is endorsed by American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM), NH Harm Reduction Coalition, New Futures, Faces and Voices of Recovery, National Behavioral Health Association of Providers, Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse of Northwest Louisiana, and Addiction Professionals of North Carolina.

This bipartisan bill is part of Senator Hassan’s ongoing efforts to combat the opioid epidemic. She successfully worked to pass into law the Mainstreaming Addiction Treatment (MAT) Act to increase the number of medical professionals authorized to prescribe the gold standard of opioid treatment. Senator Hassan and a bipartisan group of Senators also called on the DEA to take further action to remove barriers to this treatment. She also worked with her colleagues to pass into law the bipartisan INTERDICT Act, which has provided critical tools to Customs and Border Protection to help detect and intercept fentanyl and other illegal synthetic opioids.

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