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Sheriff: Deployment of Fentanyl reversal kit likely saved deputy's life

Sheriff: Deployment of Fentanyl reversal kit likely saved deputy's life

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YORK – A York County deputy’s deployment of a Narcan kit – which quickly reverses the effects of opioid emergencies – likely saved the life of a Seward County deputy, says York County Sheriff Paul Vrbka.

It was 4:30 a.m., on Feb. 23, when two deputies with the Seward County Sheriff’s Department stopped a vehicle at mile marker 366 (Utica exit), on Interstate 80, in Seward County. The deputies suspected the driver was intoxicated, Sheriff Vrbka explained.

“There were four people in that vehicle and one started to resist,” Sheriff Vrbka said. “A scuffle ensued between the Seward County deputies and the people inside the vehicle, and the deputies called York County for assistance.”

As the York County deputies responded, one of the Seward County deputies “was dealing with a juvenile. The juvenile had a packet containing a white powder. During the scuffle, some of that powder got on the Seward County deputy.”

Sheriff Vrbka said he didn’t know if the juvenile intentionally directed the powder toward the deputy or if it was a result of the scuffle that had ensued.

Meanwhile, the York County deputies arrived.

“The Seward County deputy indicated that he suddenly felt sick, he felt like he had a fever, was hot and cold, he was very nauseous, he had a weird tingling in his hands, it hit him really, really quick,” Sheriff Vrbka said, “and his condition quickly was deteriorating.”

Because of the contact with the white powder, Sheriff Vrbka said York County Deputy Taylor Samek responded by immediately treating the Seward County deputy with a dose of Narcan because it was suspected the powder was likely Fentanyl.

Fentanyl is a deadly opioid that can quickly kill a person if they are exposed – either by breathing it in or even just having it touch their skin.

Narcan is a nasal spray that works as a narcotic blocker to quickly reverse the effects of opioid overdoses and narcotic emergencies. It is particularly effective for quickly reversing the effects of Fentanyl exposure.

“This likely saved the deputy’s life,” Sheriff Vrbka said. “The deputy recovered. And the powder was later tested – sure enough, it came back positive as Fentanyl.

The deputy was taken to Seward Memorial Hospital where he was treated and released.

“Seward County Sheriff Mike Vance called me, thanked us and thanked Deputy Samek,” Sheriff Vrbka said. “If Deputy Samek had not quickly responded with the Narcan, it is likely that the deputy would have died.”

“Our office is extremely grateful for the life saving measures taken by all agencies involved,” said a statement issued by the Seward County Sheriff’s Department. “The York County Sheriff’s Department, the Seward Police Department, the Utica Fire and Rescue and the Seward County 911 dispatcher all responded promptly and professionally, working together to create a positive outcome in a dangerous and potentially tragic situation.”

Sheriff Vrbka said three of the people in the vehicle were juveniles and they were from the Grand Island area. Because they are juveniles, their names are not being released. Sheriff Vrbka said it was his understanding the driver was arrested for driving under the influence and the juvenile that had the Fentanyl was facing charges of assault of an officer and obstructing an officer.

“We have been carrying Narcan for a few years now and while deputies have only had to use it twice, I am so incredibly thankful we have it on all of us, all the time, for emergencies such as this,” Sheriff Vrbka said.

It was May of 2018 when the York County Sheriff’s Department first purchased their Narcan kits – they used $1,000 from the county’s drug fund (seized drug buy money) to make the purchase and have carried them ever since. There is also always a kit at the jail.

Thankfully, this was only the second time a Narcan kit has had to be used by the sheriff’s department. Ironically, the first treatment was also deployed by Deputy Samek. The sheriff said that situation involved a traffic stop in which a woman appeared to be suffering from the effects of Fentanyl use.

“I’m so glad we carry it on all of us, all the time, because it’s proven that it saves lives with this quick response,” the sheriff continued. “Fentanyl works really fast, it can take an effect in just a minute or two and it is very, very lethal. We are so glad Deputy Samek administered the Narcan right away – if he hadn’t, this could have been a really tragic situation. Our people are on top of that stuff and they have the tools to respond, should situations like this happen.”

Sheriff Vrbka said it is “really honestly, pretty scary to know that Fentanyl is out there and exposure can happen. It’s bad enough dealing with methamphetamine, and then there’s this. This stuff can kill you and kill you quickly. The Narcan kits are designed for quick response – deputies can also administer it on themselves, if need be, if they are alone and able to do so.”

He said he was also especially concerned that juveniles were in the possession of Fentanyl – because it can be so deadly.

The idea of having Narcan kits on deputies at all times was introduced to Sheriff Vrbka, back in 2018, when he was having a conversation with a federal prosecutor. The prosecutor asked if York County authorities were seeing a lot of Fentanyl and opioid abuse as it had been escalating in Nebraska.

“We talked about the fact that many times, law enforcement officers are the first contacts, so rather than wait for help to come, this could be administered quickly in emergencies,” the sheriff said at the time of the purchase of the first Narcan kits.

“The Narcan kits have proved how valuable they are in saving lives,” the sheriff said. “We are just so glad Deputy Samek recognized this was likely a Fentanyl exposure and then acted so quickly. Otherwise, again, this could have been a tragic situation.”

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