FRANKFORT, Ky. (WYMT/WKYT) - Thanks to a $25,000 grant from Passport Health Plan, Kentucky State Police (KSP) has a new tool to fight the opioid drug epidemic in Kentucky.
The fentanyl response kits will help officers avoid contact with dangerous drugs.
The kits include Tyvek suits, respirator masks, fentanyl protective gloves, safety glasses and a portable gear bag.
KSP Commissioner Rick Sanders said the addition of the suits will have an immediate impact on officer safety.
“Our troopers and officers come into contact with fentanyl on daily basis,” says Sanders. “Whether they are responding to a traffic stop, apprehending suspects or responding to overdose calls, just touching fentanyl or accidentally inhaling it during enforcement activity can result in absorption through the skin causing immediate and dangerous health effects.”
Reports say 1,565 people died in Kentucky from drug overdoses in 2017, which is an increase of 11.5% from 2016. 52% of those overdoses factored in Fentanyl.
Sanders also thanked Passport Health Plan for their funding and the KSP Foundation for their time and effort in developing the grant proposal.
The grant funding allows officers an extra level of protection with no additional cost to taxpayers.
"If they know that they are going into, and this seems to be a trend that may be coming, a fentanyl lab, unfortunately," said Trooper Lawson. "With labs opening up, if we have a clue or have evidence that something like that may be going on, then they would don the entire suit and protect themselves in that case."
Grainger, Inc. is supplying the gear, which will be issued to all sworn units through the KSP Supply Branch.
Passport Health Plan's Chief Operating Officer Carl Felix said Passport's mission is to improve the health and quality of life for all of Kentuckians.
“We’re proud to be standing today with the Kentucky State Police to offer this extra layer of protection in their battle against drug trafficking and abuse," Felix said.
Kentucky Justice Secretary John Tilley, who has testified to Congress on the opioid crisis in Kentucky, said KSP is on the front lines of the most lethal drug epidemic in Kentucky's history.
"It's creating extreme risks for our troopers and officers," Tilley said, adding, "We’re proud to be standing today with the Kentucky State Police to offer this extra layer of protection in their battle against drug trafficking and abuse.”
"So it covers all skin and any mucous membranes that the fentanyl may be able to come in contact with and be absorbed into the body," said Trooper Lawson. "Because it can be airborne, it can be as small as a few grams of the substance, that if an officer comes in contact with, touches it with their bare skin, they can overdose and possibly die."
KSP Foundation Director Tom Rogers said when budgets are stretched thin, it takes partnerships like the one between Passport and KSP to truly impact the opioid epidemic.
“Our key mission is to support the men and women of the KSP and this project is yet another way we can pool resources that will directly impact these troopers and officers in the field," Rogers said.
Fentanyl is a potent synthetic opioid drug approved by the Food and Drug Administration for use as an analgesic (pain relief) and anesthetic. It is approximately 100 times more potent than morphine and 50 times more potent than heroin as an analgesic.
Passport Health Plan is a nonprofit, provider-sponsored, community-based managed care organization serving Kentucky.