MUNCIE, Ind. — Police officers in an eastern Indiana county are being more careful when handling heroin because the drug increasingly is being laced with substances that can cause physical reactions or overdoses through incidental contact.
Delaware County Prosecutor Jeffrey Arnold told The Star Press that there are reports nationwide about emergency responders becoming ill from coming in contact with drugs.
Police officers are finding heroin laced with opiates such as fetanyl and carfentanil, which is so potent it's used to tranquilize elephants.
Police in Muncie often choose to send seized substances directly to state laboratories for analysis instead of conducting preliminary field tests because of the risk of contact.
"It's just not worth the risk," Muncie Police Chief Joe Winkle said.
As a result of the increased danger, only trained Drug Task Force officers handle heroin seized in investigations, said Delaware County Sheriff Ray Dudley.
"It's pretty bad stuff," Dudley said. "It just takes a little bit to get into your system and mess you up."
Jason Rogers, the county's executive director of emergency medical services and emergency management, said safety procedures for processes such as searching for syringes and drug paraphernalia in a patient's pockets have also been adjusted.
"We're obviously putting an emphasis on personal protective equipment (in the wake of the increased heroin danger)," Rogers said. "We're doing some specialty in-service training."
Emergency medical personnel in Delaware County responded to more than 200 overdose calls — many involving heroin and related substances — between Jan. 1 and March 31.