Sheriff Pushes Back Against Fentanyl Comments From Frederick County Health Department

He disagrees that no one can get addicted to fentanyl by touching it, or breathing it in.

Frederick, Md (KM) Frederick County Sheriff Chuck Jenkins is taking issue with some Health Department personnel on the dangers of fentanyl. Medical experts acknowledge that fentanyl is a dangerous narcotic, but they say skin contact, or breathing it in, or being near it won’t result in an individual becoming addicted. ” Every other public health agency across the United States says fentanyl is deadly to touch, to inhale, to have any contact with. So why would the Frederick County Health Department send this message out,” he said, during an appearance Wednesday on WFMD’s “Morning News Express.”

In its Wednesday, December 28th, 2022 editions, the Frederick News-Post reports that Jessica Ellis, manager of harm reduction and diversion programs with the Health Department, says becoming addicted through skin contact with fentanyl is a “myth” which has “created a lot of mass hysteria.” “Going back to this Jessica Ellis, I don’t know her. But its sounds to me the underlying message here basically justifies the use of drugs,” Jenkins responded.

WFMD reached out to the Health Department for comment. We received a statement from the office of Andrea Walker, the Director, Behavioral Health Services Division, that said  “fentanyl is  dangerous and responsible for the death of hundreds in our community over the last several years. We review each and ever death related to overdose of any kind. We also test street samples to survey what substances are in the local community.”

But the statement also says “research demonstrates that fentanyl overdoses from transdermal contact of powder or residue is extremely unlikely.” The Health Department says this “fear of overdose from skin contact” should not prevent bystanders from taking action and administering Naloxone  or NARCAN to someone experiencing an overdose. Naloxone or NARCAN can reverse the affects of a drug overdose.

During his Wednesday appearance on WFMD, Jenkins issued this challenge to Ellis. “The quantities of fentanyl and heroin coming across that border are destroying this country. When she talked about covers the palms of both hands, demonstrate. Show me,” he said.

Jenkins also pointed out that his deputies take every precaution when handling fentanyl. “We glove up; we mask up if necessary. Most of the time we have no idea what we’re walking into which is dangerous in itself,” he said. “But we take  all the necessary precautions to avoid any contact with anything.”

In its statement, the Health Department says “overdosing from touching fentanyl is very unlikely and should not be added to the list of dangerous situations they {law enforcement officers} regularly face.”

Jenkins responded: “I was just witnessing an overdose by a neighbor on Christmas night–Merry Christmas, right–a fatal overdose 200 yards from my home.. So tell that family fentanyl is not fatal.”

By Kevin McManus