NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – In the first five months of 2023, Nashville has averaged nearly a dozen suspected drug overdose deaths every week; many of the deaths have involved fentanyl.

Starting this week, the Metro Public Health Department will have free fentanyl test strips available in local clinics after a change in state law.

The news comes as a relief for families, especially for Angela Covington-James, who has been fighting for fentanyl test strips since her son died.

“Most of the time, I can’t even talk about him to be honest,” said Covington-James, as she held back tears.

To know Covington-James is to know her son Tre.

“Our mission is Tre, T.R.E., and that’s to reach and teach everyone about the dangers of narcotics and fentanyl and the many deaths that it has caused,” she said.

She has always been open about her and her son’s story, especially in months like May.

“Since the first of May, all I could do was cry. Tre’s birthday was just Tuesday and so of course again we had to spend the birthday with him at the grave,” said Covington-James. “It’s just hard, especially with Mother’s Day coming up. Mother’s Day will never be the same again.”

Four years ago, she found her son Tre upstairs in their home. He had taken two pills. Covington-James said she would later find out the majority of the pills contained fentanyl.

“Maybe we could have done something to save him if he would have had the test strips or something, maybe he could have been saved,” Covington-James said.

Since her son died, she has been on a mission to make fentanyl test strips available to anyone. It’s a dream that has now become a reality.

The Metro Nashville Health Department voted to make a change in hopes of saving lives. Fentanyl test strips and Narcan will be available inside its clinics, free for those who need it.

“I am ecstatic because think about it. Like a year ago when we were trying to get the test strips into the hands of people, it was considered a paraphernalia and you would have actually been charged if you got caught with it. So, for this to come to fruition, oh it’s amazing,” Covington-James explained.

It wasn’t until 2022 that the state changed fentanyl strips from being considered drug paraphilia to legal. The move came after two Knoxville teens overdosed after they took something they thought was safe.

“They were two high school students who were both honor students. They bought what they thought was an oxycodone tablet, and yeah, teenagers will be stupid. They took the drug and it was a counterfeit tablet. It had fentanyl in it and one of the girls died, and the other girl just about died. So, this is something that’s important,” said state Sen. Richard Briggs in 2022.

Metro Health Clinics are open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.