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3 female inmates overdose on suspected fentanyl at Mendocino County Jail

The Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office is investigating after three female inmates at the Mendocino County Jail overdosed on suspected fentanyl Monday evening.

Jail workers, including medical staff with the county’s contractor, NaphCare Inc., were able to revive the three women, said Lt. John Bednar, public information officer. They and a fourth woman, who did not overdose but reported she took the same substance as the other three, were transported to Adventist Health Hospital for treatment and monitoring. All four survived and were taken back to the jail within hours.

“(Staff) kept doing exactly what they were trained to do,” Bednar said. “I’m really proud of everybody involved.”

Corrections deputies are now investigating how the illicit substance entered the facility and what improvements the department could make to prevent a similar crisis in the future.

“Once we’ve dealt with the criminal side of it, we’ll take a look at the overall situation, see if we can improve,” Bednar said.

Jail staff first responded to a report of an overdose at about 7:38 p.m. Monday evening, the Sheriff’s Office said on Facebook. An inmate reported another woman was experiencing symptoms similar to a seizure.

Medical staff called an ambulance to take the woman to a hospital. While they were tending to her, another report came of a different inmate exhibiting similar symptoms, the post said.

The staff determined that both women were likely experiencing overdoses and began administering Naloxone. Paramedics arrived soon after and began treating one of the women as jail medical staff treated the other.

After several doses of Naloxone, both women’s conditions began to improve. But then another inmate began displaying symptoms of an overdose, prompting staff to administer care to her.

Once all three were stabilized and ready for transport to the hospital, a fourth woman came forward to staff and said she had taken the same substance that had caused the overdoses in the other inmates. She was also taken to the hospital as a precautionary measure, though she did not overdose, Bednar said.

After the women were in the care of paramedics, the other inmates were removed from the area, Bednar said, which resembles a dorm-style setting with multiple bunks in an open area. About 13 people, including the women who had gone to the hospital, had been staying there that evening.

Next, a trained team from the Sheriff’s Office donned protective equipment and respirators to search and secure the area. They found a substance near one of the beds, which an initial test indicated included fentanyl, Bednar said. The substance has likely since been sent to a Department of Justice laboratory for further testing, he said.

Jail staff then cleaned the entire area and removed items that may have been contaminated, including bedding and mattresses, Bednar said. The process took several hours.

The women who had reportedly taken the drug were all returned to the jail by 2 a.m. Tuesday, Bednar said.

Deputies are interviewing staff and inmates to discover how the substance made its way into the jail, including the possibility that one of the women brought it into the facility by stashing it in a body cavity. Bednar said that not even unclothed searches always enable staff to detect contraband. Digital body scanners can prove more effective, but the Mendocino facility does not have one.

“We’ll have to take a look at it,” Bednar said. “It’s not confirmed that that’s how it came in, but it’s highly suspected.”

You can reach Staff Writer Kaylee Tornay at 707-521-5250 or kaylee.tornay@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @ka_tornay.

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