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OCSEA Responds to Fentanyl Exposure in Ohio Prison

Photo Credit: Melanie Hobson / Getty
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By OCSEA, AFSCME International Staff Explore the Issues Health & Safety

Workers at Ohio’s Ross Correctional Institution were exposed to a mix of the powerful opioid fentanyl and heroin on Wednesday, according to the Ohio State Highway Patrol. The exposure occurred after an inmate at the Chillicothe facility showed signs of a possible overdose, OHSP said.

The Ohio Civil Service Employees Association (OCSEA) represents workers at that facility. Here’s a statement OCSEA President Chris Mabe released on Thursday, a day after the incident:

Dear OCSEA Brothers and Sisters,

Yesterday, we were shocked to learn that 28 staff, including Correction Officers, nurses and others were exposed to a Fentanyl and heroin mix at Ross Correctional Institution. While the incident is currently under investigation, we were relieved to learn that nearly all staff members who were treated at the hospital were released that same day. One staff was admitted overnight but was expected to be discharged today. Some staff were administered Naloxone, also known as Narcan.

Needless to say, we have a high level of concern about our staff both inside RCI and at all our institutions. In fact, just today, we have learned of a similar incident with Fentanyl at Ohio State Penitentiary, this time involving inmates only. To that end, we will immediately be requesting from the Ohio Dept. of Rehabilitation and Correction a statewide shakedown of all of our institutions. We know that Pennsylvania state prisons are currently under lockdown due to a rash of overdoses and exposures. We will be asking this department to follow that lead.

We will also be requesting an increase in the number of Narcan treatments at each facility, proper safety equipment as well as a statewide, systematic training on the symptoms and treatments of Fentanyl exposure.

We made a statement to the media yesterday in an effort to maintain transparency and to address the rumor mill. We encourage DR&C to do the same.

We continue to have concerns about the health and safety of staff and the security of our prisons due to this growing epidemic as well as the issues of under-staffing, overcrowding and the convoluted inmate classification system. Know that we will continue to monitor this situation, provide you with updates and keep our ear to the ground so that we can respond effectively.

You can access Mabe’s statement on the OCSEA website.