Six prison inmates transferred after overdosing on ‘undetermined substance’

On Tuesday morning, the DOC saluted employees for their life-saving efforts of overdosing inmates at Sussex County Community Corrections on March 8. (Submitted photo/Delaware Department of Correction)

GEORGETOWN — Six female inmates were transferred to maximum security incarceration after overdosing on an undetermined substance while on a work crew on March 8, the Delaware Department of Correction said Tuesday.

The Sussex County Community Corrections inmates were part of a nine-member work crew cleaning along Redden Road when afflicted by whatever was ingested after a package was discovered.

They were charged with a violation of Level IV status and transferred to Level V Delores J. Baylor Women’s Correctional Institution in New Castle, the DOC said.

On Tuesday morning the DOC recognized dozens of staff members for their “lifesaving” actions in response to the sudden medical emergency earlier this month. The DOC said the number of overdoses at one time involving a similar situation at a facility was unprecedented.

“As a result of their training and brave actions on March 8, six female inmates lives were saved after a drug overdose,” DOC spokeswoman Jayme Gravell said in a news release.

“The incident was successful due to impeccable collaboration between probation, security, and Connections CSP staff assigned to SCCC and Sussex Correctional Institution.”

Shortly after the incident, the Milton Fire Department Inc. Station 85’s Facebook page reported that EMS crews from Georgetown EMS/Station 93, Millsboro Fire Company 83, Ellendale Fire Company 75, Mid Sussex Rescue Squad Inc. 91, Dagsboro Volunteer Fire Department 73, and Sussex County EMS went to the scene at the Sussex Correctional Institution’s Violation of Parole office.

Ms. Gravell said the Medical Examiner’s Office “is in the process of determining the substance involved. The results of the test are pending.”

The Delaware State Police initially collected the evidence and transferred it to the Medical Examiner, the DOC said. The source of the package was unclear.

“The investigation will reveal if a person from the community placed the package there deliberately or if it was random,” Ms. Gravell said.

Earlier, the DOC said the incident began at 2:45 p.m. The inmates were taken to an outside hospital for further evaluation, treated and released.
The DOC is investigating internally, Ms. Gravell said, and State Police are ”investigating to determine if the substance was left intentionally and by whom.”

While “Adjustments to policy may be made depending on the outcome of the investigation,” Ms. Gravell said, “At this time, there is no reason to believe current policies could’ve prevented the incident.”

The inmate’s future incarceration status was uncertain due to ongoing resolution of the case,

“It’s premature to say whether or not the women will be classified for work release in the future,” Ms. Gravell said. “Their status is dependent on the pending charges and possible outcomes.”

The inmates apparently became ill upon returning to SCCC and needed immediate attention, the DOC said.

“Medical and security staff from both SCCC and SCI responded and the paramedics followed,” according to Ms. Gravell.

“CPR and the overdose-reversal drug Naloxone were used to help stabilize the offenders and they were all transported by ambulance to the hospital for further observation and treatment.”

Said DOC Commissioner Perry Phelps to the staff, “Upon taking the oath, you promised to uphold the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of Delaware as well as faithfully discharge your duties as an employee of the Delaware Department of Correction.

“On March 8, you faithfully discharged your duties without waiver or hesitation. Thank you for your heroism in saving the lives of those six women. I know their families are forever grateful.”

Officers complete training

In a separate announcement Tuesday, the DOC revealed that 330 Probation & Parole Officers and Level IV Correctional Officers received Naloxone training by instructors from the Kent County Department of Public Safety, Division of EMS, between Feb. 14 and March 7.

According to the DOC, the officers “were educated on how to recognize symptoms and administer the drug into the nasal passages of a patient when an overdose is suspected.”

Each officer was issued the medication upon certification by the program.

“Deployment of Naloxone kits in conjunction with EMS response has proven instrumental in saving the lives of those suffering from heroin or other opioid overdoses and increases the level of service that our Bureau of Community Corrections continues to provide to our state,” said Community Corrections Bureau Chief Jim Elder.

According to the DOC, first responders applied Naloxone 2,714 times to 1,906 persons in 2017, up more than 16 percent from 2016.

The Division of Public Health recently reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that 264 people died from overdoses in Delaware after an intensive state data review, an increase from the 229 people who died in 2015, the DOC said in a news release.

“In the midst of the opioid crisis we are experiencing in Delaware and across the country, it is crucial that Naloxone is as widely available as possible,” said Dr. Karyl Rattay, director of the Division of Public Health in the Department of Health and Social Services.

“Community Corrections officers are now in a position to provide immediate help to clients they serve in times of crisis.

“Reviving our fellow Delawareans who have overdosed gives them a second chance at life and a critical opportunity to be connected to treatment services. We are grateful to the Department of Correction for expanding access to Naloxone in our state.”

More information and resources on addiction prevention, treatment and recovery in Delaware is online at www.HelpIsHereDE.com.

Reach staff writer Craig Anderson at canderson@newszap.com

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