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New Mexico bill allows testing to prevent fentanyl deaths

February 15, 2022 GMT
Light fades outside the New Mexico State Capitol on Saturday, Feb. 12, 2022, in Santa Fe, N.M., as the Legislature debates record-setting proposals for spending increases on everything from state police salaries to shelter for the homeless and election administration. (AP Photo/Morgan Lee)
Light fades outside the New Mexico State Capitol on Saturday, Feb. 12, 2022, in Santa Fe, N.M., as the Legislature debates record-setting proposals for spending increases on everything from state police salaries to shelter for the homeless and election administration. (AP Photo/Morgan Lee)
Light fades outside the New Mexico State Capitol on Saturday, Feb. 12, 2022, in Santa Fe, N.M., as the Legislature debates record-setting proposals for spending increases on everything from state police salaries to shelter for the homeless and election administration. (AP Photo/Morgan Lee)
Light fades outside the New Mexico State Capitol on Saturday, Feb. 12, 2022, in Santa Fe, N.M., as the Legislature debates record-setting proposals for spending increases on everything from state police salaries to shelter for the homeless and election administration. (AP Photo/Morgan Lee)
Light fades outside the New Mexico State Capitol on Saturday, Feb. 12, 2022, in Santa Fe, N.M., as the Legislature debates record-setting proposals for spending increases on everything from state police salaries to shelter for the homeless and election administration. (AP Photo/Morgan Lee)

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico’s Legislature passed a bill Monday to legalize test strips that can detect the presence of the potent opiate fentanyl and potentially help avoid deadly overdoses.

A 32-3 vote in the Senate sent the bill for final approval to Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, who supports the initiative.

The bill from Democratic legislators in Albuquerque, Santa Fe and Los Alamos would lift restrictions on public access to devices that can test for drug impurities. It also gives state health health officials new authority to intervene and prevent the spread of diseases like HIV and hepatitis through intravenous drug use.

The bill was scheduled for a decisive Senate vote as soon as Monday that would send the measure to

Overdoses in New Mexico increasingly are linked to the ingestion of drugs laced with fentanyl.

“Starting in mid-2019, that red line for drug overdose deaths started to curve up from fentanyl ... one of the main drug adulterants,” state Health and Human Services Secretary David Scrase testified testified at a legislative hearing in January. “We were completely incapable of intervening to stop those deaths because of legal restrictions.”

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States including Arizona already have decriminalized test strips designed to detect fentanyl.

New Mexico state Rep. Tara Lujan of Santa Fe hopes her bill will also spur new opportunities for health officials to interact with people harboring drug addictions and offer support services that may save lives.

New Mexico routinely leads the American West in rates of opioid-related drug overdose deaths. It also has been on the forefront of strategies to reduce the toll of drug use and addiction, from the distribution of overdose antidote drugs to legal immunity provisions for people who may implicate themselves in crimes by seeking overdose treatment for themselves or others.