California Offering Free Fentanyl Test Strips Through The Naloxone Distribution Project

What You Need to Know

As part of his Master Plan for Tackling the Fentanyl and Opioid Crisis, Governor Gavin Newsom provided $6 million to distribute free fentanyl test strips to curb the rising deaths resulting from fentanyl contamination.

SACRAMENTO — The Department of Health Care Services (DHCS) is expanding the Naloxone Distribution Project (NDP) to include fentanyl test strips (FTS), which can be obtained by eligible organizations throughout the state of California. FTS are used to detect the presence of fentanyl in drug samples prior to ingestion. NDP applicants will have the option to request naloxone, FTS, or both at no cost through the online application.

“California is committed to combatting the opioid and fentanyl crisis,” said DHCS Director Michelle Baass. “Fentanyl test strips are a powerful tool for effective opioid-related overdose prevention. We urge our community partners to apply for this additional tool to help us tackle this crisis.”

Why This is Important

Since DHCS created the NDP and began providing free naloxone to California communities in October 2018, the program has distributed more than 3,947,000 kits of naloxone, which have been used to reverse more than 249,000 overdoses. The NDP is part of DHCS’ broader efforts to increase access to medications for opioid use disorder, reduce unmet treatment need, and reduce opioid-related overdose deaths through the provision of prevention, harm reduction, treatment, and recovery activities. With the addition of FTS, the NDP hopes to further reduce opioid-related overdose deaths through the early detection of fentanyl.

“The free Narcan provided by DHCS’ Naloxone Distribution Project has saved many lives in California and in Santa Clara County,” said Santa Clara County Opioid Overdose Prevention Project Coalition Lead Mira Parwiz. “We will be applying for fentanyl test strips made available by the project to add another level of protection against overdoses in our communities.”

Fentanyl in California

DHCS partners with the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) to reduce stigma and protect Californians by increasing awareness of fentanyl and opioid overdose prevention. In 2022, there were 7,385 opioid-related overdose deaths in California, up 227 percent from 2019 and largely linked to fentanyl, which is an extremely potent, synthetic opioid that is up to 50 times stronger than heroin and 100 times stronger than morphine. Illicit fentanyl can be added to other drugs to make them cheaper, more powerful, and more addictive, but the likelihood of a fatal overdose increases when fentanyl is mixed with any drug. Fentanyl has been found in many drugs, including heroin, methamphetamine, counterfeit pills, and cocaine. FTS are a form of drug testing technology that has been shown to be effective at detecting the presence of fentanyl in different drugs and drug forms (pills, powder, and injectables).

“Fentanyl test strips can be a useful addition to time-tested harm reduction strategies, such as never using alone and always carrying naloxone,” said Pike Long, Harm Reduction Specialist for CDPH.

Bigger Picture

Governor Gavin Newsom released the Master Plan for Tackling the Fentanyl and Opioid Crisis to support overdose prevention efforts. It includes ongoing investments to the NDP, distribution of FTS, grants for education, testing, recovery, and support services, and funding for opioid overdose medications for all middle and high schools in California.

Additionally, in December 2023, the Governor launched Opioids.CA.GOV, a one-stop-shop for Californians seeking resources around prevention and treatment, as well as information on how California is working to hold Big Pharma and drug traffickers accountable in this crisis.