BOSTON— Eleven Massachusetts police departments have been selected to participate in a pilot program aimed at distributing fentanyl test strips to help stem the number of overdose deaths in the state.

Organizers said the three-month pilot project was made possible by a $150,000 grant from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. The rapid fentanyl test strips are used to detect the presence of fentanyl in drugs, informing people about the increased risk of overdose and death.

The nonprofit Police Assisted Addiction and Recovery Initiative, which has partnered with the police departments to launch the program, cautioned that all illicit drugs are dangerous and could potentially contain fentanyl, and false negatives are possible

The group said the kits are meant to inform and protect the health of people who use drugs, with the hope of leading them to change their use and behavior.

Police departments that applied and were selected to take  part in the program are Beverly, Chicopee, Edgartown, Holyoke, Ipswich, Lynn, Methuen, New Bedford, Taunton, Whitman and Winthrop. Departments were trained to used the kits March 27 and began giving them out last week. The program will continue through June.

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid estimated to be 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine and 30 to 50 times more powerful than heroin.

There were more than 2,000 confirmed and estimated opioid-related overdose deaths in Massachusetts in 2019, with fentanyl seen as a driver of opioid-related overdose deaths, according to the Department of Public Health.

PAARI launched in June 2015 to support Gloucester's angel program financially and help coordinate addicts' placement and care. It now supports similar programs at more than 400 police departments in 32 states from its offices in Boston and Gloucester.

Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.

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