- The Phoenix City Council approved a contract for the city's police department to procure handheld devices to detect opioids and other drugs.
- TruNarc Handheld Narcotics Analyzers will allow police to detect about 400 substances including fentanyl and other narcotics, stimulants, depressants, hallucinogens and analgesics. The devices deliver real-time results without coming into contact with substances. The devices' data library is updated as new substances emerge and need to be identified.
- The nearly $535,000 contract with Thermo Scientific begins next month and runs for five years.
Leaders across the country are working to find ways to reverse the growing number of opioid-related deaths. Last fall, Denver approved an ordinance to allow the opening of a facility where opioid users can go to safely inject drugs under the supervision of trained professionals. Safe injection sites already exist in Europe and Canada, and more U.S. cities — including Philadelphia — have expressed interest in the concept.
While some smart solutions to the opioid crisis focus on the mental health aspect of opioid addiction and providing innovative behavioral health care, others use technological advances. Cary, NC's wastewater epidemiology program tested putting robotic collection devices into the sewer system to estimate and map where opioids are coming from, and therefore where in the city drug consumption might be higher.
Phoenix's handheld analyzers are another technological solution. The devices are said to deliver highly accurate readings for drug identification. TruNarc devices reportedly speed up the drug arrest process through real-time identification rather than having to send substance samples to crime labs for analysis. Police say that saves the city of Phoenix about $22,000 each month. Phoenix police first began testing the handheld analyzers about six years ago and they came into wider use in 2015.
The handheld analyzers aren't just a time saver but also a health and safety measure. Quickly identifying a drug-related crime or medical situation can help emergency responders figure out how to treat a patient more effectively. And importantly, the devices' ability to identify drugs without contact with substances keeps police and medics safer. Exposure to any quantity of opioids — especially synthetic opioids like fentanyl — can be dangerous and identifying opioid cases immediately allows first responders to take appropriate precautions to keep themselves safe.