PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Mayor Bill Peduto is calling on state lawmakers to decriminalize fentanyl test strips, saying they are “an effective opioid overdose prevention strategy.”

Pittsburgh’s mayor sent a letter to the Pennsylvania House State Government Committee pushing for the passage of HB 1741.

In his letter, Peduto says the bill would remove “barriers around testing for the presence of fentanyl.”

The letter reads: “HB 1741 addresses barriers to this lifesaving tool [fentanyl test strips] by amending Pennsylvania’s definition of drug paraphernalia to no longer include the use of fentanyl testing strips for personal use.”

Peduto’s letter says the state has the third-highest rate of drug overdose fatalities in the U.S., which is “more than double the nationwide rate.”

In 2017, 5,614 people died across the state, according to OverdoseFreePA. Sixty-five percent of those deaths happened because of fentanyl.

So far in 2019, Allegheny County has already lost nearly 200 people to drug overdoses.

“It only takes a small trace of fentanyl to kill somebody,” Mayor Peduto said. “And if that person has the ability to recognize that, they have a chance to live.”

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The strips work like a pregnancy test, with the user diluting a little bit of the drug in a cup of water and dipping the test strip in. If there are two lines, it’s laced with fentanyl.

“It could help people on the path to recovery,” Mayor Peduto said. “Unfortunately, we’re losing too many people unfortunately before they have the chance to get into recovery.”

The mayor’s letter goes on to read: “Fentanyl test strips are cost-effective harm reduction tools – they are easy to use, reliable, and provide people with information that allows them to make more informed decisions about their use.”

He wraps up by calling the bill “an essential first step” to fighting the opioid crisis.

Meghan Schiller