Take a look at Todd Rothenberger and you would not know that he used to distribute drugs and use them today. He counsels former addicts at the non-profit One Eighty in Davenport.
“I was addicted to opioids, so I used to get the fentanyl patches with the gel, cut it open and just put a little on your tongue,” said Rothenberger.
Rothenberger said he became addicted to opioids in his 30s after a doctor prescribed him medication to treat his back pain. However, he turned to street drugs after his prescription abruptly ended. But since Rothenberger turned his life around, he believes helping others also benefits him.
“I need them just as much as they need me,” Rothenberger said. “There are days where I’m struggling, and I’ll have some crazy thoughts going on in my head, and then I’ll have a meeting with them and be like… dang dude, that’s all you have to remember is what you’re saying.”
Meanwhile, local officials hope Iowa lawmakers will make legalized test strips. According to the Iowa Attorney General’s Office, state law enforcement agencies have found traces of fentanyl laced with cocaine, methamphetamine and other drugs. The Senior Assistant County Attorney in Scott County, Caleb Copley, used to be a federal prosecutor. He believes test strips could decrease the amount of fentanyl-related deaths.
“There’s a substance abuse problem. So obviously, we want to try to help those people,” said Copley. “Unfortunately, those test strips are considered paraphernalia under Iowa Code Section 124.414, and so if there be a way to legalize those test strips so that people know what they’re getting — even if it’s just marijuana — that would be somewhat helpful in these overdose deaths.”
Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller supports test strips. His office said it had submitted a draft bill to the legislative services agency, but they have yet to get it back.
Miller’s office also said it would be up to the attorney general-elect, Brenna Bird, to support the bill, and a legislator or another agency to legalize test strips.
In the meantime, Rothenberger feels fortunate to have a second chance.
“I’m just glad I’m here right now, and I can help the people here at One Eighty and the residents, and you know, just be involved and be a part of the community again.”