Two simultaneous fentanyl overdoses in prison; both women saved | Montana News

Lewis and Clark County Correctional Facility

Lewis and Clark County Correctional Facility

Two women recently suffered fentanyl overdoses around the same time while they were in the Lewis and Clark County Detention Center, officials said Wednesday, adding that they took the drug together and it was the first time that this type of incident ever happened in the county jail cell.

They were originally sent to the jail after a drug raid by US Marshals in the Helena area, officials said.

It was later revealed that they were hiding tubes of powdered fentanyl inside their bodies and using the drug when a detention officer passed them on a round at around 3:12 p.m. on January 12. Fentanyl is an opioid that is stronger than morphine and is usually prescribed to treat severe pain.

“In the 37 years we’ve been in the county, we’ve never had two overdoses in prison at the same time, so this was the first time we’ve encountered this scenario,” LCCDC Capt said. Bradley Bragg.

fentanyl pills

This undated photo, released by the Arizona office of the Drug Enforcement Administration, shows some of the 1.1 million fentanyl pills seized in the state in 2019.

About 15 minutes later, both women showed signs of an overdose. Fellow inmates immediately began performing life-saving measures such as CPR.

“It sounds more routine, but if you look at the video, it’s anything but routine,” Sheriff Leo Dutton said. “Yes, they are on camera, but there are so many cameras. We’re not staring, we’re not watching – there’s a lot of activity going on.”

Nine minutes later, an inmate pressed a button to call for help. In less than a minute, two arrest officers arrived and took over CPR, officials said. Three doses of Narcan, a drug used to reduce or reverse the effects of opioids, were given to each woman.

“There was no hesitation. There was no indecisiveness about what to do,” Dutton said. “Through these actions, you saved two lives.”

The detention center only carries six cans of Narcan in total, but will increase that number after this incident.

“What they’re missing is a lot of that fentanyl is in stronger doses now, so it needs more and more narcan,” Undersheriff Brent Colbert said. “One of them took three, so that’s six. One dose doesn’t help anymore.”

Dutton emphasized the cartel’s role in bringing more and more fentanyl across the Mexican border to Montana and how a consumer can never be sure of the purity of the fentanyl they are ingesting.

“The level of purity is much higher in the doses they’re given, and they think they have an insurance policy, but that’s not going to work,” Dutton said. “…The misconception that we’re going to provide you with Narcan and allow you to continue using it — I think that’s the message we need to balance. We don’t want to make addiction possible.”

The sheriff noted how body scans can identify suspicious objects in or on a person if you know what to look for. He and his department blamed these two women for missing the fentanyl in their bookings.

“It was missed on the body scanner, when Brad pulled me in to look at it, it was there,” Dutton said. “…If you’re not really careful, you’re going to miss it, and that’s exactly what happened.”

Bragg emphasized that body scanner retraining has been a top priority since the incident.

“We had our tactical debrief on Monday and went through what went right, what went wrong, what we could do better and I had a group that brought two girls back from the dead and they still gave me a half Page notes how we could get better,” Bragg said.

The two women are being examined and the tubes containing the fentanyl have been sent to the Montana Crime Lab. Depending on the findings, they may both be charged with criminal possession of dangerous drugs and/or criminal possession of drug paraphernalia. Their names have not been published.

So far in 2023, there have been five fentanyl overdoses in Lewis and Clark County, two of which resulted in death, officials said.

“We really have to be almost militant about these scans or searches,” Dutton said. “That’s what happens when we let go of our guard for a moment, just a moment.”

Images from Glacier National Park webcams.