29 Prison Guards, Inmates, Nurses Treated For Possible Fentanyl

CHILLICOTHE, OH — Officials now say a total of 29 people at the Ross Correctional Institution in Chillicothe were treated for possible exposure to a dangerous drug — possibly fentanyl. The Ohio State Highway Patrol updated the count from 24 around 2:30 p.m. and said it is still investigating the incident. The agency said 28 people — 23 corrections officers, four nurses and one inmate — had to be treated at the prison and then taken to a hospital for evaluation. Another inmate was treated at the scene and did not go to the hospital.

Numerous paramedics and ambulances from other cities and counties swarmed the prison around 9 a.m. State troopers previously said there have been no deaths and everyone was responsive. All prison staffers are stable, state troopers said. Some have been released from the hospital.

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Hospital CEO Jeff Graham told news outlets at a press conference that most people reported feeling nauseous. “The majority will be treated and released,” he said. “At this time, we have one person being admitted.”

Meanwhile across state lines, all of Pennsylvania’s state prisons were locked down indefinitely Wednesday due to a sudden and mysterious rash of illnesses among employees. In that state, at least 30 prison staff members fell ill due to “unknown substances” in recent weeks, the corrections officials said, suggesting the illnesses were related to opioid poisoning or other illegal substances.

It wasn’t immediately clear whether the cases are linked or merely coincidental.

The Ohio State Highway Patrol posted on Facebook that the Chillicothe facility is secure and there is no threat to the public. Unioto schools, which are next to the prison, were reportedly placed on a cautionary lockdown. Area roads have been closed and a hazmat team was reportedly at the scene.

About 31 inmates who were not affected by the exposure were removed from the cellblock and are located in other secure areas of the facility. A hazmat team remains at the scene to clean the affected areas and samples will be tested to identify the substance.

The victims were given the overdose reversal drug naloxone, the OHSP said. At least 300 doses of naloxone are at the prison if needed.

“The contaminated cell block has been cleared, and all persons from the contaminated area have been temporarily relocated within the facility. A hazardous material decontamination team is en route for cleanup,” the agency wrote.

Fentanyl is 50 times more powerful than heroin and can be deadly — even in the smallest of amounts. Last year, An East Liverpool patrolman nearly died after his skin touched the drug during a traffic stop.

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated Fentanyl and its comparable drugs killed more than 20,000 Americans in 2016, The Associated Press reported.

The Ross Correctional Institution has more than 1,900 inmates and about 500 staffers, according to the state Department of Rehabilitation and Correction.

Patch has reached out to Ross Correctional Institution, the Ohio State Highway Patrol and Adena Medical Center and will update when we hear back.

Photo credit: Shutterstock

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