Overdoses Prompt Policy Change in Vermont Prisons | Off Message

Overdoses Prompt Policy Change in Vermont Prisons


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Two inmates overdosed over the weekend in the Northwest State Correctional Facility in Swanton, prompting corrections officials to place the prison on lockdown while Vermont State Police canines searched for drugs.

One inmate was discovered without a pulse, but both survived. Corrections Commissioner Mike Touchette said the drug they ingested was likely K2 or Spice — synthetic cannabinoids.

Corrections officials said both inmates were given the overdose-reversal drug Narcan. The department acknowledged that Narcan doesn’t have an effect in reversing a non-opiate overdose, but it’s policy to administer the drug whenever an inmate is found unresponsive with no apparent injuries.

Two other Vermont inmates have overdosed during the past six months or so. Staff quickly used Narcan to reverse those overdoses.

Touchette has decided to expand Narcan access for prison guards and workers. Previously, shift supervisors and medical staff were the only staff equipped with overdose-reversal kits.

“After the weekend here we’ve made a change in policy to make sure that all staff have access to the Narcan,” Touchette said Monday. “Generally, our response times [to any incident] are between 10 and 30 seconds, but you know with any overdose event, time matters. Seconds matter.”

Touchette said that illicit drugs get smuggled into prisons through mail, visitors and incoming inmates. State police are working with DOC to find any remaining drugs in the Swanton prison. Touchette has also implemented a temporary amnesty policy for any inmates wishing to turn over contraband drugs.

The corrections department is also planning to work with Vermont State Police and the Department of Health to review this weekend’s incidents. Touchette called the review a “social autopsy, top to bottom” and said officials hope it will inform future policies.