A deputy at the Falkenburg Road Jail was exposed to a powdery substance that he found around an inmate’s bunk, and a colleague administered him two doses of the overdose-reversing drug Narcan, according to the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office. The agency said the substance later tested positive for fentanyl.
The deputy, Ismael Contreras, 25, was conducting a routine search Friday night, according to the Sheriff’s Office. Spokesperson Phil Martello said Contreras reported breathing in the substance, which the deputy described as smelling like a flower.
The Tampa Bay Times requested a toxicology report from the incident, but Martello said he did not immediately have access to such a record. Contreras was taken to Tampa General Hospital. The Sheriff’s Office said in a statement that he “nearly passed out.”
Contreras returned to work Saturday night, according to the agency. Deputies put the inmates involved in the incident into confinement, according to the Sheriff’s Office.
Police across the country have reported incidents of officers becoming sick after being exposed to fentanyl, a powerful narcotic, but leading medical experts, including at the American College of Medical Toxicology and American Academy of Clinical Toxicology, have said skin contact and brief exposure do not typically cause such harmful effects.
In March, Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri requested $625,000 in funding from the county for technology to field-test drugs, a move he said was necessary to prevent deputies from harmful exposure.
Brandon del Pozo, a former police chief who became an assistant professor at Brown University’s Warren Alpert Medical School, told the Times then that mistaken fears of an overdose via accidental exposure had created a “syndrome that has taken on a life of its own” among law enforcement officers.
Contreras found the powdery substance about 6:30 p.m. Friday, according to the Sheriff’s Office. He sealed it in a rubber glove, the agency said, and “within minutes, he felt the adverse effects.” He was taken to the hospital in an ambulance and released about 10:30 p.m., according to the Sheriff’s Office.
The agency said it is continuing to investigate the incident.
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