Fargo Cass Public Health using fentanyl tests to map areas of danger

Published: Sep. 13, 2022 at 5:28 PM CDT
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FARGO, N.D. (Valley News Live) - Overdoses from fentanyl have caused a tragic number of preventable deaths. It’s a growing danger in communities, and Fargo Cass Public Health has teamed up with Signify Analytics for fentanyl testing strips.

“North Dakota alone had a 50% increase in drug overdose deaths from 2020 to 2021,” said August Koster, Cofounder of Signify Analytics.

The other cofounder, Ryan Razzaghi, added, “Are we better off giving people access to fentanyl tests to prevent overdoses, or to have them take the enormous risk of dying and destroying families and communities? We choose testing because testing can, and will, save lives”

While testing strips have been around in Fargo since 2019, these new ones come with QR codes that show instructions and allows users to anonymously upload positive test results, creating a map of areas with higher dangers of laced fentanyl.

Jordan Beyer, Fargo Cass Public Health’s harm reduction specialist, said “Up until we started partnering with them, I had no idea. I would hear from our folks, ‘oh yeah this came back positive.’ They wouldn’t tell me where, they wouldn’t tell me what it was. I can then say, ‘hey this is what I found out’s going on in your neck of the woods. You need to be careful take some of these, give some to your friends.’ We give them out like crazy.”

It’s something the department’s glad to see, as well as those who nearly died from the hidden danger.

Sheldon Nelson, who overdosed from laced Fentanyl, said, “They used Narcan on me eight times, they stopped after nine. I got to the ER with 68% oxygen in my brain. I was on life support. My mom was told if I make it out of the coma that I’m going to be a vegetable. Save a life. You’re not going to stop them, but you might as well prevent them from dying.”

“If you get a positive test, folks are 5 times more likely to change their usage. Fentanyl’s a scary thing, so I think people are going to change their behavior if they get a positive test and like Nelson said, people are going to use regardless,” added Beyers.