Lake County providing training to avoid police dog opioid overdoses
The emergence of a lethal synthetic drug has led Lake County agencies to provide training in the use of lifesaving naloxone for police dog handlers.
Naloxone, an opioid antidote, has become a common accessory for law enforcement agencies. But a Drug Enforcement Administration warning involving fentanyl has led Lake County authorities to extend the use of naloxone to police dogs, which often are on the front line of drug investigations.
Fentanyl is sometimes added to heroin, making it 40 to 50 times stronger than the street-level version. A small amount ingested or absorbed through the skin can be lethal, according to a video message from Jack Riley, deputy DEA administrator.
"The synthetics being laced into primarily heroin are deadly," said Martin Clancy, project coordinator of drug overdose prevention programs for the Lake County Health Department.
In response, the department has teamed with the Lake County state's attorney's office and TOPS In Dog Training in Grayslake for opioid overdose training classes for police dog handlers.
The initiative was announced Tuesday by Lake County State's Attorney Michael Nerheim, who noted it is offered at no cost and funded with money seized from drug dealers.
"The drugs that our law enforcement partners are coming into contact with are so dangerous that first-responders can overdose from accidental contact they may have," Nerheim said in a news release. "We want to make sure that our K-9 officers are trained and equipped with naloxone so that they can save their K-9 partners in the event that they encounter these poisons."
Two 90-minute training sessions were held last week and two are scheduled for Thursday at the Buffalo Grove police station. Participants are from Lake County and other suburbs, such as Bartlett, Des Plaines and Glen Ellyn, as well as from Indiana, Wisconsin and agencies such as Amtrak.
Clancy said there have been no reports of police dogs overdosing in Lake County, but it has happened elsewhere.
"They (handlers) have been aware of the risk," he said. "They were absolutely thrilled to have this training."
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, fentanyl is a synthetic opioid pain reliever, approved for treating severe pain, typically with advanced cancer. It is prescribed in patches or lozenges but can be diverted for misuse and abuse and is sold through illegal drug markets for its heroin-like effect.