PUEBLO – It’s a nationwide issue that’s hitting home: sneaking drugs like marijuana, meth, and heroin into hospitals.
Parkview Medical Center in Pueblo is taking action to combat this problem and it’s using a black lab named River to do it. The two-and-a-half-year-old is a trained narcotics detection K-9 that is ready to sniff out unwelcome items that have slipped through the doors.
Jeff Tucker, public relations specialist at Parkview Medical Center, said, “We have seen incidents of patients and families, and other folks trying to sneak narcotics and other contraband into the hospital.”
Tucker said it happens every day.
Sergeant Arlene Workman, River’s handler, said, “It could be…less than an ounce of marijuana…meth or heroin, but sometimes we find that in syringes…the safety issue is if they bring those needles in and they’re uncapped then everybody has a risk for exposure.”
To curb that risk the hospital turned to River for help.
Workman said, “We’ve been certified since the end of May and we’ve been doing room searches, doing bag searches, random searches…I give him an order…to do it and then that’s when he starts his job.”
She said people can usually tell if marijuana is in the building, but odorless drugs like meth and heroin are more challenging. That’s where River comes in.
“He has the sense to smell that in a bag…in an enclosed room with a little bit of heat he can find it right away,” said Workman who showed News 5 how River is able to do this. Workman uses tennis balls as a training aid and they are usually married with a narcotic.
On Thursday at the hospital, Workman guided River around a room with a trash can, a backpack, and a briefcase. The “drug ball” was found inside the last item.
Parkview staff said for now, River is the only narcotics detection dog they will have at the hospital.