Inmate overdoses on fentanyl in jail

Jon Johnson File Photo/Gila Herald: The $25 million, 68,000-square-foot-detention-facility was completed in November 2017.

By Jon Johnson

SAFFORD – No matter how new or technologically advanced a detention facility is, inmates have found ways to sneak in contraband, including potentially fatal opiates. 

Such a case occurred at the Graham County Adult Detention Facility on Friday morning, when an inmate overdosed on fentanyl. The inmate had originally been booked on Oct. 10 on a warrant.

Fentanyl is a synthetic opiate that can be 50 to 100 times more potent than heroin. It has prescription uses, but has grown in popularity with illicit producers and drug cartels and is mostly seen in Arizona in counterfeit OxyCodone pills. 

According to a Graham County Sheriff’s Office report, a deputy was dispatched at about 10:17 a.m. to the jail regarding an inmate in the booking area possibly having an overdose. Upon arrival, the deputy located jail nurses attempting to wake up the inmate, who had already been given three doses of Narcan, (Naloxone) which is a medicine that rapidly reverses an opioid overdose. It is an opioid antagonist that attaches to opioid receptors and reverses and blocks the effects of other opioids. Naloxone can quickly restore normal breathing to a person if their breathing has slowed or stopped because of an opioid overdose. It is a prescription medicine used for the treatment of a known or suspected opioid overdose emergency with signs of breathing problems and severe sleepiness or not being able to respond. 

The inmate wasn’t able to answer questions from the deputy and was transported to Mt. Graham Regional Medical Center by paramedics from Lifeline Ambulance for further treatment and evaluation. A urine sample taken from the inmate was positive for fentanyl, according to the deputy’s report. The cell where the inmate was located was searched but no contraband was found.

The $25 million, 68,000-square-foot-detention-facility (50,000 square feet of usable building space) was completed in November 2017 and replaced the old 8,500-square-foot-facility. The building is being paid for by a jail district sales tax that began July 1, 2015, and is expected to be in effect until July 1, 2040. That half-cent sales tax passed by just 63 votes out of nearly 7,000 cast in the November 2014 election. 

Those facing addiction problems can call the National Drug Helpline at (844) 289-0879.