October 18, 2017 03:49 PM
Drew Evans, Superintendent of the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, says Minnesota is facing the most dangerous drug epidemic ever.
Evans said heroin laced with fentanyl, or the even more dangerous carfentanil, is a danger to Minnesotans and BCA crime scene investigators and scientists.
"I think what the public needs to know is fentanyl is extremely dangerous," he sad.
Evans showed KSTP what the BCA is doing to make sure nobody is killed investigating an opioid overdose.
"This drug epidemic, including our opioids and opioid analogs, has really created a new landscape for our employees," he said. "In particular with the dangers that they face handling this particular drug."
Lab scientist have to test for fentanyl in the special cases room, which includes special ventilation to protect them. Scientists are also required to wear single use lab coats, double gloves, a mask and goggles.
BCA Assistant Laboratory Director Allison Hursh said the opioid antidote Narcan is close by in case of an accident.
"We have the Narcan throughout the laboratory, and especially when we have investigative knowledge there could be fentanyl in the item of evidence," she said. "We make sure there is a buddy system (and) that we have another scientist or agent on site when they are analyzing."
Hursh says fentanyl was first discovered in Minnesota in 2013. She says the numbers of fentanyl use has skyrocketed since.
"In 2013, in the drug chemistry section, we identified 11 items containing fentanyl," she said. "And now just half way through 2017 our numbers are at 85."
The BCA also takes precautions when fentanyl is suspected at crime scenes or when agents are serving search warrants.
"It's extremely dangerous" BCA Deputy Superintendent of Investigations Jeff Hansen said. "And you can be exposed to it by breathing it in or by touching it. Or a liquid can be splashed in the eyes."
When scientets go into the field to test for fentanyl, the have to be covered from head to toe because the risk is so great.
"What's different about this is, if they inhale the right amounts of this drug it can kill them," Evans said. "And so we're very concerned about their safety in terms of processing the evidence related to these drugs."
So far, no BCA agents or scientists have had to use Narcan in the lab or in the field.
Updated: October 18, 2017 03:49 PM
Created: October 17, 2017 08:38 PM
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