Valley police departments, Sherrod Brown reacting to recent police injuries from drugs in field

Staff report


Recent incidents involving first responders coming into contact with dangerous drugs have prompted some Mahoning Valley police departments and emergency medical service providers to reconsider their policies.

On its website, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends anyone handling substances such as fentanyl take extreme precautions beyond gloves that most first responders use.

“While handling and processing fentanyl and its analogs, first responders such as law-enforcement personnel, emergency medical services [EMS] and firefighters should wear a ... half-mask filtering face-piece respirator,” warns the CDC.

All the responding agencies The Vindicator interviewed use gloves, but the use of masks and respirators is inconsistent.

Issues have been raised after an officer in East Liverpool became ill last week and had to be revived with several doses of the opioid antidote Narcan after contact with some powder from a traffic stop.

Months ago, a Boardman officer was administered an opioid-reversal medication after a substance he was inspecting blew into his face.

Warren police Chief Eric Merkel said the naloxone kits they use have two doses and a face shield to use for resuscitation, but not a mask to protect officers.

Merkel did issue an advisory to officers last August advising them to no longer field test drugs because of the danger of certain drugs harming an officer by being absorbed through the skin.

Overdose cases are happening in the suburbs, too.

U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, a Democrat from Cleveland, on Wednesday sent a letter to the Department of Justice urging the agency to expedite the distribution of federal funds to police departments. His letter details the East Liverpool incident, saying it “serves as a stark reminder of the very real threat law enforcement officers face in dealing with the current opioid crisis.”

Read more about the matter in Thursday's Vindicator or on

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