Police giving out testing kits to reduce drug overdose deaths

Published: Jan. 5, 2022 at 6:07 PM EST
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WATERTOWN, New York (WWNY) - If you flag down a police car and tell the officer you want a kit to see if your illegal drugs are laced with anything else that could kill you, what do you think would happen? There’s a new program where the officer gives you the kit, no questions asked.

Any Jefferson County sheriff’s deputy or Watertown police officer you see are now carrying a harm reduction kit meant to reduce the risk of drug overdose deaths.

The county had 28 in 2021.

“It’s just one more tool that’s hopefully going to reduce the number overdose deaths in our community,” said Watertown Police Chief Charles Donoghue.

There’s a team effort to hand these kits out to the community. That team is made up of the sheriff’s office, city police, and the drug abuse prevention group Alliance for Better Communities.

“The overriding idea of getting harm reduction kits deep and wide into the community is to save lives,” said Anita Seefried-Borwn, project director, Alliance For Better Communities.

The harm reduction kit contains fentanyl test strips. Donoghue points to fentanyl as a reason for a rise in overdose deaths.

“In recent years, the majority of those have become related to fentanyl, whether the people who were taking the drugs were aware of that or not,” he said.

County Sheriff Colleen O’Neill and Chief Donoghue say their teams won’t be asking any questions if anyone asks for a kit.

“There’s no reason for anyone to worry about us tracking them. It’s just simply a way to get these helpful kits into the community,” said O’Neill.

Right now, it doesn’t appear commonplace for law enforcement agencies in the state to carry the harm reduction kits - at least as far as Donoghue and O’Neill can tell.

“I think this will be something that will catch on statewide very quickly,” said Donoghue.

Three different agencies, all with the same goal to protect the community from drug overdoses.

“We still are enforcing the drug laws and we’re looking for the bad guys. But if we can help a family save somebody for another day when they’re alive to receive treatment or get services, we’re for that,” said O’Neill.

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