Harris County Sheriff’s Office equips deputies against deadly opioids

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The Harris County Sheriff’s Office is equipping deputies with protective gloves, respirators and anti-overdose nasal sprays to protect officers from accidental exposure to dangerous opioids.

The substances — Fentanyl and Carfentanil – have ravaged other parts of the country and started to become more common in Harris County in recent months.

Law enforcement agencies around the nation have become much more cautious about handling the substances after reports that officers were sickened by accidental exposure to the drugs.

Earlier this month, the Houston Police Department and officials from a host of other local law enforcement agencies said they would stop performing roadside tests of substances believed to be illicit drugs.

Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez said his department was committed to doing “everything within our power” to protect deputies from the drugs.

Officials with the Harris County said deputies are also being trained on how to avoid exposure to the drugs.

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“When Fentanyl and Carfentanil began showing up in Harris County, we knew we had to quickly distribute the antidote and protective gear to our deputies, in case they encounter these drugs in the field,” he said, in a news release. “Deputies will also be able to administer the antidote to Harris County residents they encounter, who may have been exposed.”

The sheriff’s office purchased 264 doses of Narcan, a nasal spray used to treat opioid overdoses. Deputies are also receiving heavy-duty protective gloves to prevent the synthetic opioids from contacting the skin, and respirator masks, according to the release.

Houston police received 196 doses of Narcan in February, said Kese Smith, an HPD spokesman. Those were given to officers in the Narcotics Division

“The department is looking for funding in the future for department-wide deployment of Narcan, but there’s no current plan in place for that to occur,” he said.

St. John Barned-Smith covers public safety and major breaking news for the Houston Chronicle. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook. Send tips to st.john.smith@chron.com.

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