Arlington Co. to add fentanyl test strips to inmate release bags

With opioid overdoses on the rise, Arlington County public health officials will  provide fentanyl test strips in bags that are given to inmates upon release.

Health officials made the announcement on International Overdose Awareness Day, a global event held each year to increase awareness of overdose deaths and prevention.

Fentanyl is a powerful and highly addictive synthetic opioid typically used to control severe pain. It is now the most-common drug involved in U.S. overdose deaths, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

“On average, we are identifying 20 to 25 individuals a month who meet criteria for an opioid use disorder. That number has slowly increased each month since we began to track this data, and I only expect it to keep rising,” said Aubrey Graham, the county’s jail-based behavioral health manager.

“We want every single person to walk out of here with the tools and resources they need to be productive members of the community. Not everyone is in a place where they are ready to enter treatment, but if we can at least keep them safe, we have accomplished something.”

Emergency release bags already include toiletries, a Metro card, opioid treatment resources for the D.C. area and a box of NARCAN, which can reverse an opioid overdose.

Arlington County Sheriff Beth Arthur will also hang flyers advertising NARCAN training programs in the county’s detention center and the magistrate’s office.

“Jail-based DHS staff will conduct the training and provide community members with NARCAN,” county officials said.

The county will host a virtual informational event at 7 p.m. Tuesday on Zoom.

In addition, community members can help prevent “medication misuse overdose” by disposing of unused prescription medication in any of Arlington’s four permanent drug take-back boxes, or by requesting a free deactivation bag.

Free NARCAN is also available by emailing narcan@arlingtonva.us.

Glynis Kazanjian

Glynis Kazanjian has been a freelance writer covering Maryland politics and government on the local, state and federal levels for the last 11 years. Her work is published in Maryland Matters, the Baltimore Post Examiner, Bethesda Beat and Md. Reporter. She has also worked as a true crime researcher.

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