Santa Clara County Sheriff Robert Jonsen is drawing attention to a rash of fentanyl overdoses and exposures at the Elmwood Correctional Facility in Milpitas, he said in a release on Wednesday.
Thirteen inmates and two staff members were exposed to fentanyl in the last week, Jonsen said, with the first incident on March 8 resulting in serious medical emergencies for two inmates. The inmates were revived with Narcan and survived.
A deputy that responded to a fentanyl overdose was affected and began to show signs of exposure, Jonsen said. He was taken to the hospital and is now doing well.
On March 9, two more medical emergencies possibly related to fentanyl occurred. An inmate was behaving "erratically" and was provided Narcan and taken the hospital. Deputies found another inmate unresponsive and not breathing and they administered both CPR and Narcan, which restored his breathing and consciousness. Two nurses who assisted in these emergencies at the facility also experienced symptoms of possible fentanyl exposure, Jonsen said, and were taken to the hospital.
"Unfortunately, nine similar incidents occurred since then," said Jonsen.
All inmates were given several doses of Narcan and are expected to make a full recovery.
Narcan is the brand name of Naloxone, a medicine that rapidly reverses opioid intoxication.
To combat the presence of fentanyl in the correctional facility, Jonsen said the Elmwood administration has taken "extraordinary" measures. Staff has been conducting multiple facility searches and more frequent welfare checks, he said. A K-9 unit has been conducting numerous searches of the facility.
The sheriff's investigation unit is also trying to determine how the drugs are entering the facility.
According to the National Commission on Correctional Health Care, drug overdoses are the third leading cause of death for incarcerated people, after illness and suicide. As overdose deaths have risen during the current opioid epidemic, so goes overdose rates in jails and prisons.
The Elmwood Correctional Facility is a medium-to-minimum security facility housing approximately 2,600 inmates, according to the county.