Milwaukee fire department distributing free overdose prevention kits to community

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MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- Milwaukee firefighters are looking to fight the opioid crisis with new overdose prevention kits.

Every Milwaukee Fire Department truck, engine and MED unit now carries these HOPE kits. Inside is two doses of Narcan, fentanyl test strips and CPR gear. Firefighters will give them out to anyone that wants one for free.

"This kit offers the people closest to that problem to step in and help and save precious minutes in our continuum of care, so when 911 is called we have a fighting chance," Chief Aaron Lipski said.

Those fentanyl test strips are especially important to these kits. They were previously illegal. The state Legislature changed that this year.

"It was deemed as drug paraphernalia in the state of Wisconsin," Alexandria Kohn said.

Alexandria Kohn is the Milwaukee County substance abuse prevention coordinator. She said the test strips allow someone to test a drug before they take it.

"You'd dip the strip in there and it would tell with a different color variation if there was fentanyl present," she said.

Kohn said most illegal drugs today can be laced with fentanyl and easily cause an overdose.

"Doesn't matter if it's marijuana or cocaine, or some other recreational drugs," she said. "It's important to realize people are going to use regardless, so why not give them the tools so they can at least survive another day to hopefully get into care."

Narcan is also an essential tool that is used to reverse an overdose. Having more people with access to it can save more lives. In 2020 alone, Milwaukee County saw 546 overdose deaths.

"Wisconsin had 1,500, so having 546 just in Milwaukee, it shows we have a problem, and we need to start caring about our community members," Kohn said.

If you'd like to get your hands on one of these, all you have to do is ring a firehouse doorbell or approach a fire crew if you see one out. Lipski said there will be enough kits for anyone that wants one.

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