Opioid Battered State Lands Grant To Arm First Responders Against Threat Of Overdose

Steve Birr | Vice Reporter

State police in Kentucky are receiving fentanyl response kits to guard against the fatal overdose risks posed by potent synthetic opioids like fentanyl.

The aid for first responders comes by way of a $25,000 grant awarded to the Kentucky State Police Foundation Monday by the Passport Health Plan. Officials are grappling with continued annual increases in drug overdose deaths across Kentucky, fueled by the influx of synthetic opioids, which can be anywhere from 50 to 10,000 times stronger than morphine, reported the Harlan Daily Enterprise.

Kentucky lost roughly 1,565 people to drug overdoses in 2017, an 11.5 percent increase over 2016. Fentanyl was implicated in more than half of all drug deaths across the state in 2017. (RELATED: CDC Warns Of ‘Dramatic Rise’ In Synthetic Opioid Deaths Over 2017)

“Fentanyl and carfentanil are so potent that a trooper doing an investigation, by merely coming in contact with it, can be severely injured or killed,” Kentucky State Police Commissioner Rick Sanders told the Harlan Daily Enterprise.

A bipartisan proposal currently under review in the Senate would help arm local law enforcement across the country with advanced drug screening technology to better deal with synthetic opioids. Democratic Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown is championing the legislation, arguing it is vital to give first responders the technology necessary to protect from accidental exposure to potent substances like fentanyl.

The bill, dubbed the Providing Officers With Electronic Resources or POWER Act, would give grants to local departments to purchase the expensive equipment, which can cost $10,000 or more.

Data released by officials with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on July 11 reveals the majority of opioid-linked deaths throughout the U.S. are now the result of synthetic opioids like fentanyl.

The report shows synthetic opioids killed roughly 27,000 people across the U.S. over the 12-month period ending November 2017, up from roughly 19,413 lives in 2016 and 9,580 lives in 2015. The sharp increase prompted a Health Alert Network warning from CDC officials advising of the ever-increasing presence of synthetic opioids in the drug supply, including in non-opioid narcotics such as cocaine.

Drug overdoses are the leading cause of accidental death for Americans younger than 50, killing more than 64,000 people in 2016.

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