SHAWNEE (KSNT)- Kansas Governor Laura Kelly signed a bipartisan bill that decriminalizes fentanyl test strips, on Thursday.

The governor was joined by legislators and advocates in Shawnee, Kansas to sign Senate Bill 174 into law. The bill makes several provisions, including expanding the power of the state attorney general to prosecute certain crimes.

One of the trademarks of the legislation includes excluding materials used to detect the presence of fentanyl, ketamine or gamma hydroxybutyric acid from the definition of drug paraphernalia. The governor said the move will help prevent overdose deaths, by detecting the presence of fentanyl in other substances.

“Overdoses caused by fentanyl have devastated communities across Kansas and the nation,” Kelly said. “By decriminalizing fentanyl test strips, we are providing the resources needed to combat the opioid and fentanyl epidemic so that families and loved ones no longer have to feel the pain of a preventable death.” 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 100,000 people died in 2021 from a drug overdose, the most ever recorded in a single year in U.S. history. 

This year marks the third year a bill has been introduced in the Kansas Legislature to decriminalize fentanyl test strips. In 2022, the bill passed unanimously in the House but stalled in the Senate.

“The fentanyl epidemic is devastating our communities. Senate Bill 174 represents our first steps in working together to fight this terrible drug,” Rep. Stephen Owens (R-Hesston) said. “I am proud to stand with Governor Kelly as we continue to work together to save lives.” 

SB 174 also increases criminal penalties for manufacturing or distributing fentanyl and for committing battery against a healthcare provider.   

Kansans looking for substance use treatment and recovery services are encouraged to use state services available here