It's a drug so dangerous just touching it can kill you. We’re talking about Fentanyl, which you have probably heard of by now.
It's a synthetic opioid that's like morphine but it's so much more potent.
Just last year, three K-9 officers from Broward County almost died.
Local agencies aren’t taking that chance and are fighting back to protect our K9s.
Master Patrol Officer Victor Gancedo has been with the Tampa Police Department for 23 years. His K9 partner Dex, only has been working two years.
Recently, this veteran had to learn new tactics to protect K9s from a potent drug.
“The threat is real. With Fentanyl, you can just touch it and it's absorbed into the blood stream,” says Gancedo.
With over two decades serving our community, Gancedo says there have never been anything as dangerous as this.
Just a few months ago, every K9 handler with the department went through training to use Narcan nasal spray on their K9s. The medication can stop or reverse the effects of an opioid overdose.
Something else that has changed. Now, K9s only alert the officers where the drugs are. They no longer get too close.
“That’s probably one of the biggest precautions we do now because we put so much time, effort and a lot of training into these dogs,” says Gancedo.
We contacted various local law enforcement agencies, if they also use Narcan for their K-9 unit.
- Manatee and Polk counties say yes
- Pinellas County just ordered the kits
- Sarasota Police Department is open to the idea
- Hernando County is a no
Cindy Grant with Hillsborough County Anti-Drug Alliance just came back from a drug conference in Tallahassee, where they discussed what the opioid and heroin epidemic looks like across the state.
The state started seeing an issue with Fentanyl in 2012 when 65 people died. That information comes from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
In 2016, the number of Fentanyl fatalities skyrocketed to 853 people.
Grant's data shows since Hillsborough County cracked down on doctor shopping and pills mills a few years ago, people have resorted to Fentanyl.
That's caused more problems for those on the street and those on the front line.
Fentanyl is cheap. It cost about 5 to 10 bucks and easily available.
Here’s why it affects you. Taxpayers are paying for the problem.
In May, Gov. Rick Scott declared a state of emergency for the opioid epidemic, giving the state $27 million to help fight the problem.