New device will help detect drugs mailed to Oneida County Jail

A new drug detection device will be used at the Oneida County Jail, officials said Wednesday.

The MX908, a portable version of a mass spectrometer used to detect traces ranging from explosives to narcotics, will be used to detect drugs at the prison. It will be the first correctional facility in the state to use the device, according to a press release from the office of Oneida County Executive Anthony Picente Jr.

Data results will be collected for the County Opioid Task Force Overdose Response Team.

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The device was purchased with assistance from the Oneida County Health Department’s Bureau of Justice and CDC partnerships to support data-driven responses to emerging drug threats, the statement said. The grant promotes collaborations between public health and law enforcement to understand patterns of drug use.

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What is Mass Spectrometry?

A deputy demonstrates the testing phase of the MX908, a new drug detection device that will be used at the Oneida County Correctional Facility in Oriskany on Wednesday, March 30, 2022.

A mass spectrometer essentially measures a substance down to its individual molecules — the device converts them into ions and weighs them, according to a tutorial from Iowa State University.

The MX908 can not only detect traces of drugs like fentanyl and its analogues, but also explosives and chemical hazards, according to its manufacturer, 908devices. Drugs can be detected and identified in seconds, officials said in the statement.

In 2021, 361 people overdosed in Oneida County, and 67 people died from overdoses, according to data from the Oneida County Overdose Response Team. Since this only includes overdoses to which law enforcement responded, the true number is likely higher.

The device will be used at the jail to detect postal contraband, Oneida County Sheriff Robert Maciol said in the statement.

“This advanced technology gives us the ability to positively identify even residual amounts of drugs in seconds and can be a game-changer in a rapidly changing drug threat environment,” Picente said in the statement.

H. Rose Schneider covers public safety, breaking news and trends for the Observer-Dispatch. Email Rose at [email protected]

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