AUSTIN, Texas (ValleyCentral) — Governor Greg Abbott announced his support for decriminalizing fentanyl testing strips, reversing this previous opposition as the state battles an increase in opioid overdoses.

“This is an extraordinarily deadly problem,” Abbott said earlier this month.

Fentanyl test strips are a low-cost method of helping prevent drug overdoses and reducing harm. The small strips of paper can detect the presence of fentanyl in all different kinds of drugs and drug forms.

Although recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to minimize overdose, the strips are currently illegal in Texas.

Gov. Abbott opposed the strips.

Even in small doses, fentanyl exposure can cause a life-threatening overdose.

The Texas Department of State Health Services reports a 89% increase in fentanyl-related overdose deaths from 2020 to 2021.

Belinda Vega from Donna lost her 16-year-old son Jay Jay Calderon to fentanyl poisoning in April, and believes legalizing the strips could save lives.

“I believe we should have them and want them to be legalized because we could test a drug as soon as people have access to it and know if it’s laced with fentanyl,” Vega said.

Sandra Bagwell’s son Ryan was only 19 years old when he passed away from fentanyl poisoning this year. She is glad Texas lawmakers are listening to families who lost loved ones.

“I know before maybe he had thoughts about not, you know, that it was a crime to have the fentanyl testing strips. But now he’s taking that back. And I think it’s wonderful. He’s actually seeing what it’s doing to families, not just in Texas, but nationwide,” Bagwell said.

Both mothers encourage parents to be vigilant about what their children are doing.

“My message for all the mothers from a grieving mother at this time, communicate with your children, with your loved ones,” Vega said.

Several bills have been filed by lawmakers to make the testing strips legal.