He isn’t a physician or frontline health care worker, but Chief Technology Officer Dean Shold’s personal passion is helping save the lives of many Bay Area community members using recreational drugs, not knowing they could be lethal.
Shold is the co-founder of FentCheck, a non-profit that provides fentanyl test strips and education to drug users at risk from an increased prevalence of street drugs tainted with the fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that is 80-100 times stronger than morphine. Shold illustrates that regardless of your role or job description, AHS attracts dedicated mission-driven employees who put the health and wellness of the community we serve first and foremost.
“I’ve always had a desire for giving back, but over the last several years I’ve come to realize for me there’s a meaningful difference between writing a check at a fundraiser and creating and growing a non-profit,” said Shold. A few years ago, he began researching the opioid crisis and how the spread of fentanyl was contributing to the rising number of overdoses across the country.
According to the latest preliminary data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), roughly 100,000 people in the U.S. died from overdoses over a 12-month period, a massive surge from a year ago. In addition, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) states that across California more than 5,000 deaths were related to opioid overdoses in 2020, about 72% of which involved fentanyl.
Fueled by this growing public health crisis, Shold powers forward with the goal to get free FentCheck test strips into local venues and areas in the community commonly known for recreational drug use. FentCheck is as simple as taking a pregnancy test. Two lines on the strip indicate the drug is free from detectable fentanyl, one line means it has fentanyl in it.
“It’s become a true passion and consumes a considerable amount of my time,” he said. He often jokes that he has two jobs; from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. he is the Chief Technology Officer and then from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. he focuses on ways to expand the distribution of FentCheck and getting it into the hands of those who need it to prevent an overdose.
The expansion efforts are already having a positive impact. Shold shared that in the Bay Area volunteers are giving out between 500 to 600 FentCheck strips in a single weekend.
In addition, FentCheck collaborates with the California Bridge program at AHS to make their services available to Substance Use Navigators (SUNs) and their patients so they can obtain fentanyl test strips easily and in a timely and convenient manner.
“With FentCheck, we just want to keep making a difference in the community and protect the most vulnerable populations,” said Shold. “People deserve to know what they are putting in their bodies so they can make informed decisions.”