MedStar Health Hospitals are First in Maryland to Offer Fentanyl Test Kits

Fentanyl Drives Majority of Drug Overdose Deaths in the State

September 23, 2019

BALTIMORE—MedStar Health’s three Baltimore City hospitals are the first hospitals in the state to offer patients in the Emergency Department free test kits to detect the presence of fentanyl, a potent synthetic opioid fueling an epidemic of fatal drug overdoses.

The fentanyl test kits initiative, which launched today, is part of a larger effort in recent years by MedStar Health to identify patients at risk of drug overdose and pair them with a peer recovery coach who can connect the patient with recovery resources. The test kits will be distributed at MedStar Union Memorial, MedStar Harbor and MedStar Good Samaritan hospitals.

Fentanyl, which can be added to heroin, cocaine or pills without the person being able to detect it, is linked to most drug overdose deaths in Maryland, according to the Maryland Department of Health. Fentanyl was linked to 1,888 overdose deaths in Maryland in 2018, with 2,143 opioid overdose deaths overall, according to the MDH. Baltimore City had 758 deaths linked to fentanyl in 2018, by far the largest number of any jurisdiction in the state.

“Studies have proven that individuals experiencing substance use disorder will change behavior and interactions with substances if the presence of fentanyl is known,” said Ryan Moran, the director of community health for MedStar Health’s three Baltimore hospitals. “If they know fentanyl is present, they can take steps to reduce the risk of overdose, such as taking less of the substance, not using alone, using with a naloxone rescue kit nearby, or complete abstinence. This initiative will save lives and will allow our peer recovery coaches more time to build a rapport with patients so that they can assist them in seeking and/or continuing treatment and recovery. It is a key aspect of our mission to serve our communities in addition to providing harm reduction services and evidence-based healthcare.”

The initiative is part of a larger strategy to provide support to individuals experiencing substance use disorder. In 2016, MedStar Health launched the SBIRT (Screening, Brief Intervention and Referral to Treatment) program, in which patients are screened in Emergency Departments for drug overdose risk factors and given referral and resources for treatment. In 2018, MedStar Health started the Opiate Overdose Survivor’s Outreach Project (OSOP), a program to connect opioid overdose survivors with peer recovery coaches who have lived experience with substance use disorder in their past. The coaches stay in touch with patients after they leave the hospital, providing support and education.

MedStar Health has bought 2,000 test kits so far to distribute and intends to continue the program if supplies run out.

The test kits will be distributed in the Emergency Department by peer recovery coaches who work one-on-one with high risk patients. Patients can take a small portion of the drug substance and mix it with fluid in a tube, dipping the test strip inside. The strips don’t indicate how much fentanyl is present, instead giving a positive or negative result. Even if the test is negative, individuals should be aware that they can still overdose.


About MedStar Health

MedStar Health is a not-for-profit health system dedicated to caring for people in Maryland and the Washington, D.C., region, while advancing the practice of medicine through education, innovation and research. MedStar’s 30,000 associates, 6,000 affiliated physicians, 10 hospitals, ambulatory care and urgent care centers, and the MedStar Health Research Institute are recognized regionally and nationally for excellence in medical care. As the medical education and clinical partner of Georgetown University, MedStar trains more than 1,100 medical residents annually. MedStar Health’s patient-first philosophy combines care, compassion and clinical excellence with an emphasis on customer service. For more information, visit

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