Dec 8, 2022 - News

Fentanyl test strips blocked from Iowa harm reduction boxes

A photo of a harm reduction box.

The harm reduction box outside Polk County Health Department in Des Moines includes personal hygiene kits with access to a safe needle disposal service. Photo: Jason Clayworth/Axios

Harm reduction boxes were added at Polk County's Health Department and River Place locations in Des Moines during the last month.

  • They contain things like tourniquets, cotton filters and needle disposal containers.
  • The intent is to help assist people who are struggling with substance abuse avoid some of the harshest consequences of addiction — like infections that can cause death.
  • The devices are locked. Codes are provided by health workers to people who may need them via appointment or through a request to the department's staff.

Yes, but: The kits don't have fentanyl test strips because they are classified as drug paraphernalia and are illegal in Iowa.

  • Polk officials support efforts to change the law, Polk County Health Department spokesperson Madisun VanGundy told Axios.
  • Wisconsin and Georgia are among states that have decriminalized the strips, according to information from the Iowa Attorney General's office.

Zoom in: Fentanyl test strips detect synthetic opioids that can be highly lethal.

  • Gov. Kim Reynolds joined a group of health officials in July in warning the public about the growing fentanyl epidemic.

Catch up fast: Harm reduction is part of a movement to use a proactive approach in reducing problems associated with substance abuse.

  • Groups like the Iowa Harm Reduction Coalition (IHRC) provide people with supplies, including free drugs to reverse opioid overdose like naloxone.
  • A grant from IDPH covered much of the costs of Polk's boxes.

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