Metro Nashville police to outfit officers with opioid antidote

(AP Photo/Mel Evans)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – The Metro Nashville Police Department plans to outfit narcotics officers, special response officers, and frontline supervisors with the opioid antidote Narcan.

The department ordered 500 units in response to the growing concern about officers who come into contact with powerful synthetic opioids like fentanyl and carfentanil.

“Most of the overdoses are sent out as medical calls,” Deputy Police Chief Todd Henry said. “So the fire department arrives first and the police may never get notified.”

Deputy Chief Henry said it made more sense for the paramedics to carry the antidote because they would be more likely to administer the life-saving drug to a patient.

But now officers have to consider carrying the antidote for their own protection.

“In the last year as the drug dealers and the drug couriers have started using fentanyl and carfentanil to enhance the heroin on the street, it has become more of a danger to officers on the street,” Henry explained.

Fentanyl is 100 times more powerful than morphine. Carfentanil is even more dangerous at 10,000 times more powerful than morphine, and it is often used to tranquilize large animals like elephants.

Both of the synthetic opioids can be inhaled or absorbed through the skin. Even a few grains of the drug in its powder form can cause a fatal overdose.

That makes them especially dangerous to police officers who may come in contact with them.

“We have read about overdoses in other cities where officers are doing searches and pat downs in order to recover drugs,” Deputy Chief Henry said. “We also have a partnership with area veterinarians who carry Narcan in case one of our K-9 officers ingest the drug while doing a search for narcotics.”

The Drug Enforcement Administration issued a warning to first responders this week about the dangers of synthetic opioids.

It urged first responders to have protocols for when they encounter known fentanyl or other synthetic opioids. It also suggested law enforcement officers and first responders.

It also warned first responders not to handle pills or powder without proper protective equipment.

“At some point, it is going to be necessary to provide [Narcan] to all our officers, but it is a funding issue at this point,” Deputy Chief Henry said. “We were able to find the funds to at least get it started for the officers who are most likely to come into contact with these drugs, but eventually we want to give it to all officers.”

The 500 units of Narcan are scheduled to be delivered by June 30.

One concern for officers is storing the antidote properly. It must be kept at a certain temperature. Metro police officials are still deciding the best way to store the antidote.