‘The Fentanyl Project’: First Responders, Overdose Fatalities, and Grieving Families

‘The Fentanyl Project’: First Responders, Overdose Fatalities, and Grieving Families

By Stephen Owsinski   

The scourge of fentanyl permeates America and increasingly steals lives as open borders invite fatal narcotics into all corners of our nation, resulting in fatalities that leave families grieving and first responders racing against time to save lives, with significant risk to themselves.

Recently published, “The Fentanyl Project” is a brief documentary containing statistics enumerating a stark scourge plaguing the country and insights from loved ones left behind, discussing shattered families, and hoping that others do not become the next obituary due to granular poison.

The Fentanyl Project contains commentary from Sarasota, Florida, law enforcement officers. These frontline heroes convey candid impressions and expressions of first responders who encounter overdose scenarios and the fever-pitch claw for saves.

Sadly, but justly, cops also harp on those they could not pull back from the dark depths caused by fentanyl ingestion, culminating in the proverbial pale of having to make death notifications to decedents’ kin.

(Photo courtesy of the Sarasota Police Department.)

In essence, The Fentanyl Project is a roughly 26-minute film that serves as a microcosm to the grander scope of how deadly fentanyl is, the scourge of which is copiously bandied about by victims’ families and the first responders who implement life-saving measures against the odds, their tone laden with a fusion of heartache and frustration.

Unsurprisingly, law enforcement officers remain in the ring, combatting the flow of fentanyl and tending to those who wittingly and unwittingly ingest the drug.

Along with Sarasota County Sheriff Kurt A. Hoffman, The Fentanyl Project producers tapped Sarasota Police Chief Max Troche and a few of his officers, whose dutiful experiences paint graphic details evolving from the drug’s proliferation across the United States.

“When I spoke to Sheriff Hoffman and Chief Troche here in Sarasota, I was so shocked with what they shared about the crisis and knew we had to get this information out as quickly as possible,” exclaimed KT Curran, the director of The Fentanyl Project, in correspondence she shared with me.

From a Sarasota Police spokesperson: “’The Fentanyl Project’ is a 26-minute documentary with a focus on the impact of the synthetic drug in Sarasota County. The film features two families dealing with the unexpected loss of a child and sibling after taking fentanyl.

“Chief Troche, Sgt. Harris and Sgt. Morrison sat down with film director KT Curran to discuss the impact of fentanyl in the city of Sarasota. All Sarasota Police recruits will watch the film for their agency-specific training program moving forward.

(Photo courtesy of the Sarasota Police Department.)

“Sarasota schools’ leaders are also working to show the film to students because of the dangers of illegal drugs.”

There it is, again: As if cops —future and present— do not have enough of society’s woes to fight against, including fending off brazen cop killers—the human version. Now, cops contend with something the size of a sand granule that can immobilize them and jeopardize their existence, if not end it altogether.

Although the training blocks at America’s police academies contains plenty of material regarding narcotics and chronicles the “war on drugs,” potent pharmacology chemically engineered for pain relief of legitimate patients found its place, approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

However, cartels and the like have manifested imposter pills (as shown in the Fentanyl Project footage), adding to the phantom killers encountered by cops working a beat.

A “routine traffic stop” for any law enforcement officer anywhere can mean exposure to the immediate incapacitation of cops.

On April 8, 2024, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis “signed legislation to increase penalties on individuals who expose law enforcement officers to fentanyl and to bring awareness to life-saving measures for someone experiencing an opioid overdose.

“I’m signing legislation today to keep officers safe on the job, and to further combat the opioid epidemic.”

I’m sure Tavares, Florida, police Officer Courtney Bannick is elated to hear of the governor’s latest legislative salve and his continued efforts to safeguard the Sunshine State’s cops.

Officer Bannick’s experience garnered national exposure after she was recorded by other police officers’ body-worn cameras, collapsing during a traffic stop. The culprit was fentanyl.

Per a Fox News report, Officer Bannick said I “felt like I was choking!”

As The Fentanyl Project illustrated, Narcan (naloxone) is touted for its positive effects of turning around hugely negative circumstances imposed by the perilous drug.

The two other Tavares police officers on scene with Officer Bannick were ideally prompt in administering Narcan, bringing Bannick back to a stable threshold and hospitalization to ensure her longevity in life as a law enforcement officer. But what if those two backup officers were not there? Thankfully, they were…equipped with Narcan kits, deploying several to bring back an officer from the brink.

(Photo courtesy of the Montpelier Police Department.)

“One police officer’s bodycam footage showed her collapsing, which prompted the officers to administer three doses of Narcan to reverse the poisoning, as she drifted in and out of consciousness,” noted Fox News reporter Bailee Hill.

Thankfully, Officer Bannick survived to talk about her life-threatening experience…

“We respond to overdoses almost every shift,” Officer Bannick shared with the media. “If it’s not every shift, it’s every other we deal with that. I would say I see fentanyl overdoses or in many people’s possession almost weekly here.”

Protecting cops who protect us is paramount.

Enacted by Gov. DeSantis, Florida SB 718 contains the following hallmarks pillaring first responders and embracing people affected:

  • Creates a second-degree felony for any adult who, through unlawful possession of dangerous fentanyl or fentanyl products, recklessly exposes any first responder to such fentanyl and that results in overdose or serious bodily injury.
  • Expands protections from prosecution for individuals who seek help in good faith due to the belief that they or someone they know is experiencing an overdose.

The fentanyl epidemic festers…

“Fentanyl, over the past year, they’ve come up with different strands of it to where it’s almost 100 times stronger than what the fentanyl was a year ago,” said trauma therapist Chris Chodkowski in a News 4 report in December 2022.

December 2022! Roughly 17 months since…and we remain spellbound by the lethality of fentanyl, proliferating casualties while law enforcement officers take on the toll.

In communications with Fentanyl Project documentary Director KT Curran, she offered these words: “I have the deepest respect for the sacrifice and heroism you and your fellow officers have done on our behalf.”

Those sentiments are reciprocal. The Fentanyl Project is a dual accounting of two families impacted by a micro killer and the cops who nevertheless confront the scourge, mindfully undiluted and maturely brought to the eyes of viewers.

I’m relatively contented that the Officer Down Memorial Page does not (yet) contain “Fentanyl Poisoning” among its categories denoting by which method cops are felled in the line of duty while serving citizens.