HAZLETON, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — There was a close call overnight for three Hazleton City police officers who responded to an overdose call. All three became ill and it could have been much worse.
They were exposed to the highly addictive and potentially deadly opioid fentanyl. One officer nearly overdosed. The drama unfolded just after 2 a.m. Friday morning in the area of North James and 7th Streets. Three officers responded to a call about an unresponsive male inside a car.
“My officer goes to pull him out, the first officer on scene. They hit him with Narcan and when he does he realizes that on the individual’s chest and on his face and around his nose is Fentanyl,” chief Jerry Speziale said.
Fentanyl, a man-made opioid is often used in conjunction with heroin.
“The other two officers were a little bit sketchy. They checked their vitals. He started to feel a little weird right away so when EMS got to the scene they checked him out. His vitals were a little off. They transported him immediately. They called me in the middle of the night. I said get him to the hospital right now. They Narcanned our officer,” Speziale said.
Narcan is a drug that can reverse a drug overdose. Jason Harlen has worked in addiction counseling for 20 years. He says the officers were very lucky. It could have been a much different outcome.
“Fentanyl is extremely addictive. Someone, say a first responder or a family member, who enters a room with a person who’s having an issue with Fentanyl could become addicted to it instantly. It’s that strong of a synthetic drug made by humans,” Harlen said.
“It’s not just the guns and knives and domestic calls. It’s now an unresponsive male, a medical call that you’re going to help someone who has a serious addiction and now you’re facing your life being in danger from a powdered substance,” Speziale said.
All three officers will be okay. The one officer who was given a shot of Narcan was taken to the hospital, treated, and released.
The threat of exposure to Fentanyl and other dangerous opioids has prompted many area communities to offer specialized training for their first responders. Besides that, many of those first responders like police officers carry Narcan.