EAST MADISON — The overdose antidote drug Naloxone, also called Narcan, might have saved the life of an inmate at the Somerset County Jail on Tuesday after the inmate overdosed on what authorities believe was heroin, possibly laced with the powerful narcotic fentanyl.

James Ross, chief deputy of the Somerset County Sheriff’s Office, said jail employees saw the female inmate, whom Ross would not identify, down on the floor. Jail officials called a “code blue,” a medical emergency.

“We suspected what we were seeing, and we had our medical PA provider there and responded,” Ross said by phone Friday afternoon. “We suspected it was an opiate overdose. We had put Narcan inside the jail back more than a year ago in anticipation of something like this happening because it is such a national problem.”

Ross said the jail staff administered the Narcan and the inmate became responsive and was taken to Redington-Fairview General Hospital in Skowhegan, where she was treated and then returned to the jail.

Ross said the ensuing investigation identified how the material had entered the jail, and criminal charges are pending. He said an inmate who allegedly brought the drugs in had been scanned by the jail’s new body scanner and was found to be “packing” a significant amount of the drug, but apparently not all of it was detected.

“We’re looking at it as being heroin, but it’s possible it was laced with fentanyl,” he said. “It only takes a few grains of the salt-size product to cause an overdose.”


Ross said the inmate who brought the drugs into the jail was not the inmate who overdosed. He said there is no evidence that any more of the drug remains in the jail in East Madison.

“This is a national problem, and there’s always some that’s going to find its way into the facility. It’s a huge problem for all correctional facilities trying to keep drugs out,” Ross said. “That’s the way it is. You’re never going to get it all. We know who did it. It’s just we’re still investigating, and that’s where criminal charges will probably be forthcoming.”

Ross added that there are no contact visits at the Somerset County jail, which reduces the likelihood of contraband entering the jail.

He said the presence of Narcan in the county jail more than likely saved the inmate’s life.

The inmate “could have possibly died, because by the time you get (emergency medical service), which is extremely quick and responsive, but by the time they get here and by the time they get through the security, there’s a possibility,” he said. “That’s why we put Narcan in here when we gave it to our law enforcement division. We also put it inside because we suspected this was going to happen sometime. This is a case right here where it worked.”

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

[email protected]


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: