Windsor Regional Hospital to offer free fentanyl test kits
Windsor Regional Hospital is going to begin offering fentanyl test kits in an effort to reduce opioid overdoses.
Test strips and detailed instructions will be made available to any patient suspected or confirmed to be a drug user before they are discharged from the Emergency Department or Mental Health Assessment Unit.
The hospital is buying the test strips which will be distributed in a kit that also includes the life-saving drug naloxone, used to combat overdoses.
Jonathan Foster, Vice President of Emergency and Mental Health programs, says individuals using a liquid-based drug can test the residue of what they're using.
"It's really just s small test strip that you would put a few drops of water into a container. Put the test strip in for around 15 seconds, per the instructions on the video. In around 30 seconds, this test strip is going to let tell you if fentanyl is present or not present in the drugs they may be using," he says.
According to the hospital, there were 573 emergency visits in 2021 specifically involving fentanyl, including 346 overdoses.
Between Jan 1. and Sept. 15 of 2022, the number of visits has hit nearly 300.
Foster says this is a harm reduction strategy because drug use and opioid use is an epidemic right now.
"We know the reality is that individuals will still use drugs in the community. This is just another layer to help save lives," he says. "Why not do it, if it can save a life? It doesn't cause harm and it doesn't encourage drug use, it just helps keep people more safe."
Foster says the hospital is buying the strips from a company in Ontario, althought an exact dollar figure was not available.
"These initiatives, although they might require some up front costs, they're really an investment in one, our community. Two, in the people we're really trying to serve and three, in the system overall. It saves lives and saves the use of our system when someone does not have to come to the emergency department in a near-death situation," he adds.
Fentanyl is a powerful pain medication often prescribed to people with long-term, severe pain. The hospital says that when used this way, it can be effective and safe, but if misused it can be extremely dangerous with the potential to cause an overdose or death even in small amounts.
In recent years, fentanyl has been discovered mixed in street drugs without the knowledge of the drug user.
Click here for more information on the test strips.