By BRIAN BOHNERT
FOR THE COURIER

FOSTORIA — A Fostoria police officer who was accidentally exposed to the opioid fentanyl during an arrest Thursday afternoon is recovering at home after being treated at a hospital.

The patrolman came into contact with what is believed to be the powerful pain medication during a routine traffic stop near the intersection of West Lytle and South Main streets in Fostoria.

Fostoria Police Chief Keith Loreno said the officer pulled over 27-year-old Logan T. Parrish of Findlay at about 5 p.m., and the officer discovered a “very large quantity” of what he believed was fentanyl inside the vehicle.

The officer, who Loreno declined to name Thursday night, put on gloves before searching both the vehicle and the suspect.

But during the search of the vehicle, the officer came into contact with the drug and began to exhibit symptoms of exposure. A second patrolman on the scene immediately called for the Fostoria Fire Division’s EMS squad, which arrived minutes later and transported him to ProMedica Fostoria Community Hospital for emergency evaluation.

Paramedics gave the officer one dose of Narcan, an FDA-approved nasal spray that can reverse the effects of opioid exposure. The officer was treated by physicians and released several hours later.

“I can’t tell you the range of emotions I felt getting the call that we had an officer down as a result of this. I am extremely thankful he is home recovering,” Loreno said Thursday night. “This just shows that we cannot be tolerant of these criminals contaminating our communities with these poisons.”

Police cannot confirm the substance discovered inside the car was fentanyl until the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation completes a lab analysis. However, Loreno said Parrish admitted that’s what it was.

Fentanyl has played a large part in the deadly opioid epidemic. In an effort to deliver a longer, more powerful high, drug dealers often lace heroin with fentanyl.

Since the drug can be produced and distributed in mass quantities, fentanyl has evolved into a cheaper alternative to heroin.

According to the Drug Enforcement Agency, fentanyl is 30 to 50 times more potent than heroin and 50 to 100 times more powerful than morphine. The drug can potentially be lethal, even in small amounts.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that Ohio experienced a 107.3 percent increase in overdose deaths related to synthetic opioids such as fentanyl between 2014 and 2015.

The number of fentanyl-related drug overdoses in Ohio more than doubled from 503 in 2014 to 1,155 in 2015, according to the Ohio Department of Health. In fact, unintentional drug overdoses were the leading cause of injury-related death in Ohio in 2015 — ahead of motor vehicle crashes.

“If it hadn’t been for those two officers, there may be a lot of dead people in the area right now if (Parrish) was able to distribute it,” Loreno said. “I can’t tell you how proud I am of the officers and the fantastic job they did tonight.”

Thursday’s incident served as a reminder of the struggle police departments large and small face as a result of the nation’s soaring drug epidemic. With Fostoria Police Division already well below its full staffing level, Loreno said the need for more officers on the road is as crucial now as it has ever been.

“This kind of arrest certainly shows why it is necessary to keep a sufficient amount of police officers on the streets of Fostoria,” he said. “It allows us to maintain an active stance against drug trafficking.”

Parrish was charged with felonious drug possession, but additional charges are pending. He is being held in the Seneca County jail until his first court appearance.

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