SAN FRANCISCO (KRON) – With rising fentanyl deaths and more drugs being laced with the deadly synthetic opioid, some Bay Area bars are now providing fentanyl test strips with the help of a local nonprofit known as FentCheck. The organization says it started providing test strips to bars in Oakland and San Francisco in January 2021, and they’ve since expanded to UC Berkeley.
“We started taping them in bar bathrooms and lamp posts in the city, just kind of observing if people would be interested in them and we leveled up since,” said Alison Heller, co-founder of FentCheck. “We started working with venues directly to put these, a lot like condoms during the AIDS crisis, putting them into bowls into bar bathrooms and really taking the stigma out of this kind of harm reduction and bringing it to people who otherwise didn’t know they needed harm reduction.”
Heller and Dean Shold said they began their efforts after seeing an increased prevalence of tainted street drugs, often cut or laced with fentanyl, causing accidental overdose deaths. Through FentCheck, they now regularly provide fentanyl test strips and education to dozens of bars in the Bay Area, including Korner Kitchen and Bar in Oakland.
“Yeah, they go pretty quickly. I think I’m actually in need of a refill soon enough, yeah I have yet to see any negative response to them,” said Daniel Miranda with Korner.
Miranda said it was important for him to carry the test strips at his bar after losing several friends to accidental overdoses.
“All the lives I’ve seen these things take, I think it’s more important to stop it where we can,” he said.
While Jacqui Berlinn with Mothers Against Drug Deaths recommends people stay away from drugs, she says this is a good first step in harm reduction and preventing more accidental fentanyl deaths from happening.
“I want to be sure though that people understand it’s not 100 percent foolproof,” she said. “It’s kind of like using a condom. It’s another layer of protection but it’s not going to be absolutely foolproof.”
FentCheck says it is now working with UC Berkeley and other bars in New York, Philadelphia, Portland, and more cities.