An Arkansas woman continued to distribute fentanyl test strips, even though the product is technically illegal in the state, to honor her brother, who died of an overdose.
Brittany Kelly has given away thousands of test strips in the community of Fayetteville, Arkansas. As co-founder of the Matt Adams Foundation for Opioid Recovery, a Fayetteville nonprofit focused on distributing kits to reverse a naloxone opioid overdose throughout the community, she is doing the work to honor her brother, who died in 2017 died of an accidental overdose.
The nonprofit co-founder said her brother was alone after several years of sobriety when he overdosed with no one to administer a naloxone kit that could temporarily reverse an opioid overdose. Now her foundation has distributed over 6,000 such kits throughout the Fayetteville community, something she hopes will help save people from a potentially fatal overdose. Kelly also offers fentanyl test strips, which can be used to test other drugs for the presence of the deadly opioid. According to the foundation’s website, the organization has distributed over 10,000 such kits throughout the community.
Kelly believes the strips can help save lives given the increase in fentanyl-related overdoses in recent years, sometimes caused by the use of other fentanyl-laced drugs.
“An increase in illegal pills containing fentanyl points to a new and increasingly dangerous time in the United States,” said Nora D. Volkow, director of the Institute on Substance Abuse. “Pills are often taken or snorted by people who are naïve about drug use and have lower tolerance levels. When a pill is contaminated with fentanyl, as is often the case now, poisoning can easily occur.”
However, the distribution of the test strips comes with risks, as Washington County Attorney Matt Durrett said the tests are considered drug paraphernalia and possession of the strips can lead to felony charges. The Fayetteville area has seen a spike in fentanyl-related overdoses in recent years, with Capt. Brad Renfro of the Fayetteville Police Department saying the department is prioritizing drug liberation on the streets rather than the fentanyl test strips used by Kellys organization are distributed.
“Technically it’s illegal, but we’re not prioritizing it,” Renfro said. “We’re more interested in the people who sell the drugs themselves.”
Kelly said she was aware what she was doing was technically illegal but insisted the tests could save lives and shouldn’t be banned. She plans to lobby the state legislature to change the law during next year’s session.
Arkansas isn’t the only one to ban the stripes, as about half of the states across the country have enacted similar laws.
However, efforts like Kelly’s to reform such laws have met with success in recent years, as state legislatures in Georgia, New Mexico, Wisconsin, Tennessee and Alabama passed legislation allowing fentanyl test strips.
Meanwhile, Kelly has no plans to stop distributing the tests.
“I know I’m helping them right now,” Kelly said.