‘It doesn’t ever go away’: Arizona state senator shares grief after son’s overdose death and her mission to protect others from fentanyl

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State Sen. Christine Marsh says ‘a very dangerous alternative’ value her son his life. She needs to change state legislation to enable check strips for fentanyl hidden in medicine.

PHOENIX — Editor’s word: A Senate committee unanimously permitted a measure that may legalize the possession of check strips to detect the presence of fentanyl. It now goes to the complete Senate for consideration. 

Democratic State Sen. Christine Marsh is aware of what her son would inform her.

“He was really a very, very tough kid. I call him a kid, he was 25,” she stated. “I may simply image him saying, ‘Mom, suck it up, get with it.’” 

Her youngest son, Landon Marsh, died of a drug overdose final May. He purchased a road drug laced with fentanyl, Marsh stated, and it killed him.

Landon was a newlywed and a mechanical engineering scholar who made “a really bad choice” with a pal on a weekend night time in Tucson, Marsh stated in her first interview since her son’s death. 

She spoke overtly about her grief. 

“It doesn’t ever go away,” she stated. “I know that true peace and maybe even true happiness are going to be very elusive.”

Landon died as his mom was within the midst of a hard-fought marketing campaign, her second in two years, to win the LD 28 Senate seat, representing north-central Phoenix and Paradise Valley.

“I tried very soon after to at least get functional. That was the goal,” Marsh stated, her voice halting at occasions. 

“I started grief counseling right away. But to me that is the bar. It may seem like a low goal, but to me that’s a really high bar: Let’s just get and stay functional.” 

Now Marsh, a former Arizona “Teacher of the Year,” is in a spot the place she will make a distinction as overdoses surge in the course of the pandemic.

Finishing her third week as a Democratic state senator, Marsh is sponsoring a invoice that she believes may forestall overdose deaths.

“Landon would need me to do every part potential to assist others,” she stated.

Marsh’s proposal would legalize so-called fentanyl check strips, now banned as “drug paraphernalia.”

The strips work like urinalysis check strips to detect the presence of deadly fentanyl in a narcotic.

“Some smart people who use drugs in other parts of the country were able to determine they could test the drugs themselves,” said Haley Coles, of Sonoran Prevention Works, which labored with Marsh on her invoice.

Coles’ non-profit works to cut back the hurt to individuals who abuse medicine.

Statewide and nationwide, fentanyl is ranked as the foremost explanation for the spike in overdose deaths, Coles stated.

“We are seeing fentanyl being pressed into fake pills,” she stated. “And that’s the place we’re seeing lots of people experiencing overdoses and lots of them are deadly.

“People are taking pills they think may have come from a pharmacy that they’re getting from friends or maybe on the street. But those pills are full of fentanyl.”

She cautions the strips aren’t 100% correct.

“Because fentanyl is so present in so many substances, we tell everybody to act as if there is fentanyl in their drugs,” Coles stated.

A aspect advantage of utilizing the strips is “it encourages people to slow down. A lot of overdoses happen when people are rushing to get high.”

Coles teams the check strips with naloxone, a medicine used to reverse opioid overdoses. In 2015, the state expanded entry to naloxone to cope with an opioid epidemic.

“For those who are going to use drugs anyway,” she stated. “These are really vital tools to avoid preventable death. You can’t recover if you’re dead.”