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Legalizing fentanyl test strips is a matter of life or death for Kansans

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Legalizing fentanyl test strips is a matter of life or death for Kansans

Mar 27, 2023 | 4:33 am ET
By Libby Davis Brandy Harris
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Legalizing fentanyl test strips is a matter of life or death for Kansans
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Drugs laced with highly potent and dangerous fentanyl have become a public health crisis and exacted a toll on Kansas families. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

We want to tell you our stories about the impact that failing to legalize fentanyl test strips has had on our lives.

My name is Libby Davis. I’m a registered nurse and a parent. In August of 2021, my son died after taking a poisonous pill that contained illicit fentanyl. He was 16 years old.

My son was a curious teenager, experimenting in ways so many of our children do at that age. He didn’t get the opportunity to learn from his mistake. His life was taken too soon.

My name is Brandy Harris. I’m a mother. When my son Sebastain was 13 years old, he was riding his bike to football practice when a truck hit him head-on. Sebastain was prescribed pain medication as a result of this accident. We didn’t know it at the time, but this would go on to change the trajectory of his — and my — entire life.

My son soon became addicted to painkillers, making for a rough few years throughout his teens.

But even when his addiction was at its worst, Sebastain always made time to be there for his family. My son went to rehab. He was clean for three years. He held a good job, had a loving girlfriend with whom he shared a home, and had plans for their future. He had even discovered a new love for animals.

Then, he relapsed.

On April 15, 2022, Sebastain’s life was cut short. He was 21 years old.

What do our stories have in common? Both of our sons could have been saved if Kansas had legalized the use of fentanyl test strips.

What do our stories have in common? Both of our sons could have been saved if Kansas had legalized the use of fentanyl test strips.

– Libby Davis and Brandy Harris

There are too many families in Kansas and across the country who share similar stories to ours, and the numbers are growing every day. Fentanyl-related deaths have become the No. 1 cause of death for Americans ages 18-45, and we are seeing the most considerable growth in death rates due to fentanyl in our youth ages 14-23. In 2021, Kansas had the second-highest increase in drug deaths in the nation, most of which involved fentanyl. Drug overdose deaths increased by 43%, with 680 Kansans dying.

Think about the parents and family members of those 680 Kansans. About the phone calls they received telling them the news their loved one died from an overdose. Then explain to us why we shouldn’t legalize fentanyl test strips, which can detect the presence of fentanyl, ketamine, or other potentially lethal elements in a substance.

Fentanyl test strips are a simple, inexpensive, and evidence-based method of preventing drug overdoses and saving lives.

That’s why we are frustrated that House Bill 2390 has stalled in the Kansas state Legislature. This legislation would legalize the use of fentanyl test strips, as well as establish the Kansas overdose fatality review board.

These policies have the potential to save countless lives.

How many more stories like ours will parents have to tell before our concerns are taken seriously? How many more children, teens, and Kansans will have to die before something is done? Drug addiction is a disease, not a choice. More lives will be lost if we continue to refuse to recognize this as reality and get to work addressing the issue.

The lives of our children depend on it.

Brandy Sheahan Harris is a full-time mother, full-time cosmetologist and full-time student. Libby Davis is a wife, mother, sister, aunt, daughter and nurse. Through its opinion section, Kansas Reflector works to amplify the voices of people who are affected by public policies or excluded from public debate. Find information, including how to submit your own commentary, here.

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