Fentanyl Overdoses at Elmwood Jail Prompt Sheriff to Begin Investigation, Add More Searches

Santa Clara County Sheriff Robert Jonsen Wednesday reported a rash of fentanyl overdoses and exposures at the Elmwood Correctional Facility in Milpitas.

In a press release, Jonsen said 13 inmates and two staff members were exposed to fentanyl in the last week. The  first incident on March 8 resulted in serious medical emergencies for two inmates, he said in the press release. Two nurses who assisted in these emergencies at the facility also experienced symptoms of possible fentanyl exposure, Jonsen said, and were taken to the hospital.  The inmates were revived with Narcan.

One deputy who responded to a fentanyl overdose was affected and began to show signs of exposure, Jonsen said. He was taken to the hospital and is now doing well.

The sheriff's investigation unit is trying to determine how the drugs are entering the facility, Jonsen said in the statement.

On March 9, two more medical emergencies possibly related to fentanyl occurred.  One inmate was behaving "erratically," was provided Narcan and taken to the hospital. Deputies found another inmate unresponsive and not breathing and they administered both CPR and Narcan, which restored his breathing and consciousness.

“Unfortunately, nine similar incidents have occurred since then,” said Jonsen.

All inmates were given several doses of Narcan and are expected to make a full recovery.

Narcan is the brand name of Naloxone, a medicine that rapidly reverses opioid intoxication.

To combat the presence of fentanyl in the correctional facility, Jonsen said the Elmwood administration has taken “extraordinary” measures.  Jail staff have been conducting multiple facility searches and more frequent welfare checks, he said. A K9 unit has been conducting numerous searches of the facility.

According to the National Commission on Correctional Health Care, drug overdoses are the third leading cause of death for incarcerated people, after illness and suicide. As overdose deaths have risen during the current opioid epidemic, so goes overdose rates in jails and prisons.

The Elmwood Correctional Facility is a medium-to-minimum security facility housing approximately 2,600 inmates, according to the county.

Katy St. Clair is a reporter with Bay City News.


  1. There are no coded “Deputy Sheriff’s” there either. The county got rid of them to save 15%, somewhere.

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