'Our friends are dying': Milwaukee Co. calls for support to legalize fentanyl testing strips

NOW: ’Our friends are dying’: Milwaukee Co. calls for support to legalize fentanyl testing strips

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- One Wisconsin leader is heading the charge in a new fight against opioids and she's calling on state lawmakers to make it easier to detect fentanyl.

Right now, it is illegal in Wisconsin to have fentanyl testing strips. County Supervisor and State Representative Sylvia Ortiz-Velez (D-Milwaukee) is working on legislation to change that.

"This must pass our state and be signed by the governor because our neighbors, our family, our friends are dying because they can't detect the presence of fentanyl with the naked eye," said Ortiz-Velez.

Ortiz-Velez said the number of opioid deaths increased last year. In 2019, she said there were 343, and in 2020 that number rose to 462.

Ortiz-Velez believes that legalizing the strips will not only help police and EMTs, but also the average person. She said the tools will help first responders in overdose situations and also if someone comes in contact with the drug accidentally.

Senator Lena Taylor is helping garner bi-partisan support, as others do so on the local level.

"Fentanyl testing strips are simple and inexpensive and, believe it or not, they're illegal," said Sen. Taylor. "They are considered paraphernalia. This legislation allows for them to be treated no different than we do Narcan."

"We don't play politics in Milwaukee. We don't have time to cause we're in a forgotten city. We have no time to play politics on this or red tape," said TEAM HAVOC leader Rafael Mercado.

Once this legislation is finalized, both Ortiz-Velez and Taylor believe it will have bi-partisan support in both houses.

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