By Austin Carter

FORT LAUDERDALE (CBSMiami) — The Broward Sheriff’s Office has a new weapon in its arsenal to combat the community’s opioid epidemic.

It’s a new and innovative piece of technology called the MX908.

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“It is a form of technology that gives us a chance to detect effectively what kind of drugs we’re dealing with,” explained Sheriff Gregory Tony.

The hope is the MX908 will protect those out in the field responding to calls and those working in the correction’s department.

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

The MX908 is a device that can quickly and safely identify dangerous illegal drugs and substances. BSO is using them in its battle against opioid usage in the community. (CBS4)

The Director of BSO’s Community Programs David Scharf showed the media how the technology works on Tuesday.

After a quick click of the “drug hunter” mode, a swab is taken along the outside of a sample piece of mail. Then, it’s swabbed onto a strip and placed into the machine. The screen then lights up with what drug is detected.

“Not only can this detect fentanyl but has a library of thousands of different substances that can be dangerous, including flakka, bath salts,” said Scharf.

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Even a small amount of the drug fentanyl can be extremely dangerous and even deadly.

Sheriff Tony said the opioid epidemic on the streets of South Florida cannot be ignored.

According to BSO, a 30% increase in opioid deaths in Broward is expected in 2021.  Across the nation, a 26% increase is expected in 2021.

Also, at least 800 fentanyl-related deaths are expected in Broward County in 2021.

“The opioid crisis has continued to devastate not only Broward County, but the entire country,” said Sheriff Tony.

BSO currently has four MX908 instruments which have been used dozens of times and have helped BSO deputies identify a number of illicit drugs and cutting agents including: heroin, fentanyl, cocaine and methamphetamine.

BSO started training on and using the devices in November 2020.

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They were purchased through a collaborative partnership with the Department of Health Broward via the Overdose Data to Action grant which was funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).