AUSTIN (KXAN) — National harm reduction groups are turning their attention to Texas as news about the breadth of our state’s overdose problem has grabbed headlines.

On Tuesday, the National Harm Reduction Coalition posted an article done in conjunction with State of Reform, a group that hosts conferences around the country surrounding health policy and political reform, addressing the fact that fentanyl testing strips are still illegal in Texas despite the jump in overdoses and overdose deaths.

How we got here: KXAN’s previous reporting on fentanyl testing strips

Fentanyl testing strips can be used to test drugs, powders and pills for the presence of fentanyl, which is often more potent than other drugs and can be fatal. The strips allow people to take extra steps to protect themselves or to not take the drugs altogether.

But under the Texas Controlled Substances Act, drug testing equipment is classified as drug paraphernalia, which makes it illegal for people to recreationally test. 

Despite that, some groups are still shipping the tests to Texas and they’re readily available on sites like Amazon.

In the national report, State of Reform specifically pointed to Travis County and a recent medical examiner’s report which found in 2021, drug overdoses were the leading cause of accidental death.

Travis County Judge Andy Brown told KXAN after that report was released that he’s talked with state legislators about the possibility of bringing the legality of testing strips forward during the next legislative session.

“I don’t think this is a partisan issue at all, nobody wants to see people dying in their community because of this,” Brown said. “I’ll be reaching out to Democrats and Republicans to see if they would help sponsor this next session in January.”

That’s something the National Harm Reduction Coalition said needs to happen — an overarching compliance with national strategies.

“It’s very traumatic and difficult to do the work [of] taking care of patients when policymakers make it very difficult for me to provide that care,” said Dr. Kimberly Sue, Assistant Professor at Yale University School of Medicine and Medical Director at the National Harm Reduction Coalition, in the State of Reform article.