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Bar in Over-the-Rhine offers Narcan, fentanyl test strips as lawmakers, organizations push for wider access

Senate Bill 296 heading to committee vote
Opioid Crisis Overdose Antidote
Posted at 6:43 PM, Mar 28, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-29 12:28:16-04

CINCINNATI — Lawmakers in Ohio are looking into giving drug users access to tools they say could prevent an accidental overdose.

Dennis Cauchon, president of Harm Reduction Ohio, testified last week in favor of Senate Bill 296, a bill that would revise the state's drug paraphernalia law that governs access to naloxone and certain narcotic testing product like fentanyl test strips.

In written testimony to the Senate Health Committee, bill co-sponsors Senators Nathan Manning and Steve Huffman said fentanyl test strips "have proven to be accessible, easy to use and effective, detecting the presence of fentanyl almost 100% of the time.”

Cauchon said 11% of cocaine and 5% of meth in Ohio is laced with fentanyl. While the percentages might not seem large, Cauchon said it is "killing a lot of people." Test strips, he said, would help reduce the number of accidental overdoses due to fentanyl.

“People want to know what’s in their drugs,” Cauchon said. “People forget that these are accidental overdoses. People aren’t trying to kill each other, they are trying to be careful in their circumstances.”

Under the party lights at Somerset Bar in Over-the-Rhine, owner Jeremy Moore is making sure his staff is ready for anything when it comes to substance abuse.

“If you have worked in the bar and restaurant industry long enough, you are going to have come across at multiple points in time people overdosing,” Moore said.

Moore had his staff trained recently in administering Narcan. If a customer is in need of a test strip, bar staff can provide some.

“It is a reality of our world,” Moore said. “Bars and restaurants are going to be dealing with a wide variety of demographics and people of all walks of life. Being accepting of that but also mindful of how best to put people in a position of safety.”

Moore worked with Noam Barnard, the executive director of Coalition for Community Safety, to train his staff in an effort to save lives.

“Nobody wants to have someone die in the bathroom of their bar,” Barnard said. “This is something that your security at the front door may not be able to stop. It might be something that they took before they got there, who knows what’s going on.”

On April 25, the Coalition for Community Safety will hold large-scale training with Harm Reduction of Ohio for bartenders and nightlife staff. The training will be held at Somerset Bar on E. McMicken Avenue at 2:30 p.m.

Senate Bill 296 has already had two hearings. Now it’s heading to a committee vote, which could take several weeks. If passed, it would go to the House for a final vote.

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