Heroin-fen­tanyl mix led to drug ex­po­sure con­cerns at prison

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution - - FROM PAGE ONE -

CINCIN­NATI — A sub­stance that led to nearly 30 peo­ple at an Ohio prison be­ing treated for drug ex­po­sure or sus­pected ex­po­sure was a mix­ture of heroin and fen­tanyl, the State High­way Pa­trol said.

Prison guards, nurses and in­mates at Ross Cor­rec­tional In­sti­tu­tion in Chilli­cothe were treated Wed­nes­day with the anti-over­dose drug nalox­one af­ter an in­mate showed signs of a drug over­dose, and some peo­ple ex­pe­ri­enced symp­toms con­sis­tent with ex­po­sure to the opi­oid fen­tanyl. Med­i­cal of­fi­cials said symp­toms such as nau­sea, sweat­ing and drowsi­ness were re­ported.

Fen­tanyl — con­sid­ered much more pow­er­ful than heroin — has been linked to thou­sands of over­dose deaths na­tion­wide. Law en­force­ment of­fi­cers rou­tinely use gloves when re­spond­ing to over­doses to avoid pos­si­ble ex­po­sure.

Also Wed­nes­day, Penn­syl­va­nia state pris­ons were put on lock­down af­ter em­ploy­ees at 10 pris­ons re­cently re­quired treat­ment from ex­po­sure to an uniden­ti­fied sub­stance, and the Mary­land Depart­ment of Pub­lic Safety and Cor­rec­tional Ser­vices tem­po­rar­ily sus­pended vis­its at its cor­rec­tional fa­cil­i­ties un­til fur­ther no­tice in re­sponse to the Penn­syl­va­nia and Ohio in­ci­dents. Those in­ci­dents also led the Delaware Depart­ment of Cor­rec­tion to can­cel visi­ta­tion and re­strict move­ment in all of its prison fa­cil­i­ties, with the ex­cep­tion of work re­lease and pro­ba­tion fa­cil­i­ties.

A to­tal of 28 peo­ple in Ohio, in­clud­ing cor­rec­tions of­fi­cers, nurses and one in­mate, were taken to a hospi­tal for eval­u­a­tion, with 24 re­quir­ing treat­ment, ac­cord­ing to the high­way pa­trol. One in­mate was treated at the scene, and all but one staff mem­ber and one in­mate were re­leased from the hospi­tal, pa­trol spokesman Lt. Robert Sellers said in a state­ment Wed­nes­day. He de­clined to com­ment fur­ther Thurs­day, cit­ing the con­tin­u­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

Mes­sages left Wed­nes­day and Thurs­day at the Ohio Depart­ment of Re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion and Cor­rec­tion were not im­me­di­ately re­turned.

Penn­syl­va­nia State Po­lice de­clined Thurs­day to dis­cuss their in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the sub­stance sick­en­ing staff at that state’s pris­ons, al­though the Depart­ment of Cor­rec­tions has de­scribed it as a liq­uid syn­thetic drug that in some cases is ab­sorbed through the skin.

Penn­syl­va­nia Gov. Tom Wolf in a state­ment Wed­nes­day said the lock­down, which con­tin­ued Thurs­day, was a “nec­es­sary step” to en­sure of­fi­cers’ safety and al­low time to “as­sess and con­trol the sit­u­a­tion.”

Pris­ons of­fi­cials in Mary­land and Delaware say their ac­tions were taken as pre­cau­tions.

“We un­der­stand this may be in­con­ve­nient for fam­ily mem­bers, but we owe it to our staff and those in our cus­tody to pri­or­i­tize safety and health,” said Deputy Com­mis­sioner Alan Grin­stead, of the Delaware Depart­ment of Cor­rec­tion.

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