FWPD taking steps to protect officers from accidental overdoses

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FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) Fort Wayne Police are taking steps to avoid accidental overdoses while on the job.

Last week in Ohio an officer responded to a call and noticed white powder in a car. He later noticed some of the powder got on his uniform and brushed it off. What the officer did not know was the white powder was laced with fentanyl and the officer overdosed.

“We tell all of our officers anytime that you think you’ve got some kind of powder substance just assume its fentanyl or now even carfentanil,” Fort Wayne Police Narcotics Captain Kevin Hunter said.

Just a tiny dose of carfentanil or fentanyl can kill a person. What’s most concerning for first responders is that you don’t have to snort or inject the super opioids to overdose, the drugs can be absorbed through your skin or inhaled.

“The DEA put a notice out recently and two officers were packaging evidence and as they normally did they got the air out of the bag and as they did that a puff of air up and overdosed both of them, so it’s a huge concern,” Hunter said.

Hunter said it’s stories like that and the one from Ohio that reinforce why Fort Wayne police are taking steps to not come into contact with the deadly drugs.

“That means make sure they have the nitrile gloves on before they touch anything. We’re not field testing out in the field anymore and to do as little touching of the substance as possible, so if it’s already in a package we’re not removing that from the package,” Hunter said.

Not only is Hunter concerned about first responders, but for the users who might encounter the laced drugs. From January to April of 2016 police responded to 192 overdoses, in that same time period this year police have seen 372 overdoses.

“Lets say a batch of this comes to Fort Wayne. We could have significant overdoses and overdose deaths that could overwhelm both first responders and the medical community as well,” Hunter said.