PARAMUS, N.J. – When she is not saving lives as an EMT, Kimia Shahriyar is proud to be part of a group that promotes the safety of those who struggle with drug use, the New Jersey Harm Reduction Coalition.
Part of what the group does is mailing fentanyl test strips out to anyone in New Jersey who wants one in hopes of preventing more overdoses.
“As a first responder, [it’s] not that it would make my job easier,” said Shahriyar, “but it would be easier on the heart, to say. There would be much less opioid overdoses and things like that.”
On Friday, federal lawmakers were at Bergan New Bridge Medical Center in Paramus to announce new legislation to expand access to fentanyl test strips. Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Congressman Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ 5th District) spoke about the critical need for drug users to be able to test for fentanyl in their supply.
“Together these two bills will get test strips in the hands of more people, and each test strip costs a dollar or two,” said Booker. “What a minuscule amount of money to prevent the invaluable urgency of people dying.”
“[It’s] a common sense and proven step to saving the lives of our loved ones,” said Gottheimer. The idea that we wouldn’t use this tool is crazy.”
The CDC has supported efforts for test strips at the state and community levels.
The strips are considered illegal paraphernalia in some states but have been decriminalized in many others, including New Jersey. Lawmakers and doctors alike are hopeful more lives can be spared from overdose.
“There is hope for recovery, but we must act on preventing the spread of fentanyl and we have to stop the devastating impact that it’s having on our communities,” said Dr. Anthony Accurso, Medical Director of Addiction Medicine at Bergen New Bridge Medical Center.