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Broward deputies have a new weapon in the war on opioids: a $90,000 drug detection device

South Florida Sun Sentinel - 5/25/2021

The Broward Sheriff’s Office has a new tool in its efforts to combat the opioid crisis and other drugs.

Their new device — the portable MX908 — will allow deputies to rapidly field-test substances and detect trace amounts of hundreds of dangerous drugs such as heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine and fentanyl, as well as cutting agents used in illegal drugs, according to its manufacturer and the sheriff’s office.

They cost about $90,000 apiece and were purchased by the Broward Sheriff’s Department through a partnership with the Department of Health Broward via the Overdose Data to Action grant. The grant was funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Exposure to fentanyl can be particularly deadly, according to the CDC. Fentanyl — a prescription-only, pharmaceutical-grade opioid painkiller 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine — can be absorbed through the skin.

Sheriff Gregory Tony said use of the MX908 will tamp down the risk to first responders, such as deputies and fire rescue crews, being exposed to drugs.

The devices, which can easily be carried, work like this: a substance is put on a test strip, and the strip is put inside the MX908 and quickly analyzed. The substance’s makeup is shown on the display screen.

The devices will be used in many scenarios, Tony said, including quickly testing substances collected during a traffic stop, or when fire rescue personnel find or come into contact with a suspicious substance while at the scene of a traffic accident.

Broward and Pinellas counties are the only ones using the MX908 in Florida, the sheriff said Tuesday, during a demonstration of the MX908 at the Public Safety Building in Fort Lauderdale.

The sheriff’s department bought four MX908 units. Tony said one each will be distributed to the fire rescue hazardous materials team, law enforcement, detention, and the watch commander. So far, 10 staffers have been trained to use the devices, he said.

Tony said the MX908 can also be used to screen incoming mail at the Broward Jail.

“We receive roughly 5,000 pieces of mail every month in the department of detention,” he said, “and, as you can imagine, individuals who are trying to introduce contraband, it’s going to come through the mail.”

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