SARASOTA – A law enforcement officer is out in the field and comes across a substance that looks like it could be an opioid, but what do they do with it?
Normally they would handle the material personally and put it into a presumptive roadside test to determine its components.
According to Col. Kurt Hoffman of the Sarasota Sheriff’s Office, that is all going to change.
“What we’re asking our deputies and other property folks and forensic, whoever would come into contact with this, we’re asking them to just package it, submit it, we’ll send it to the drug lab, use universal precautions in the drug lab and that’ll prevent accidental exposure,” Hoffman said.
Sarasota Sheriff’s office personnel are no strangers to heroin, fentanyl and their other derivatives, but now they’re dealing with something much stronger.
“Well it’s new in the sense that it’s just so potent. Synthetic heroins, you know in some cases, are hundreds of times more potent than the actual heroin that we deal with,” Hoffman said. “They started naming some of the fentanyl and carfentanil that’s out there ‘grey death’ because it’s supposed to be able to kill an elephant.”
A person can absorb these drugs through the skin or eyes, or inhale them through airborne micro particles. Drug lab personnel will be required to wear special gloves that have two layers to prevent any drugs from penetrating the skin. Hoffman says you can never be too careful.
“We’ll expedite the warrant, we’ll catch the bad guy, but at the end of the day, this could have life altering consequences,” Hoffman said.
In Sarasota county there have been 17 deaths and 122 overdoses just in the past five months, making the area already on par to surpass last year’s number of heroin overdoses.
Anyone handling the drugs will also be supplied with Naloxone injectors to reverse any effects of accidental exposure.
Hoffman says he needs to look out for his own.
“For us, this is just another example in a long line of the history of this agency taking care of our first responders,” Hoffman said. “If we cant take care of ourselves then we cant take care of you.”