Multiple fentanyl overdoses at Elmwood Correctional Facility

The Elmwood Correctional Facility has experienced a "substantial" amount of fentanyl overdoses in the last week - a total of 13 inmates and three staff members had exposure to the deadly drug, the Santa Clara County Sheriff's Office said on Thursday.

No one died in any of these exposures and overdoses, Sgt. Michael Lowe said. 

On March 8, two people who are incarcerated were experiencing fentanyl exposure and were given several doses of Narcan, Lowe said. One deputy was exposed, too. All three were taken to the hospital and are OK, Lowe said. 

The next day, there were two similar medical emergencies, Lowe said. 

In one of the cases, a deputy witnessed one inmate acting erratically and another unresponsive and not breathing. Deputies administered Narcan and life-saving measures, Lowe said. 

They were both taken to the hospital and survived. In addition, two nurses were also taken to the hospital. 

Nine similar incidents occurred since then, Lowe said. 

Fentanyl must be absorbed into the body before the exposed person will suffer any harmful effects.

It is a common misconception that fentanyl can be absorbed through the skin, but it is not true for casual exposure, according to doctors at UC Davis. 

You can't overdose on fentanyl by touching a doorknob or dollar bill. The one case in which fentanyl can be absorbed through the skin is with a special doctor-prescribed fentanyl skin patch, and even then, it takes hours of exposure.

However, Lowe said that any time Narcan is administered, the affected person is sent to a local hospital by ambulance where they are further checked out. 

Lowe did not say how the fentanyl came into the jail – the office has launched an investigation to determine how the drugs are getting in. 

But he did say that deputies are conducting searches and more frequent welfare checks.

The Sheriff's Office is now also sending in K-9 units along with the DEA to conduct more systematic searches of the jail complex, Lowe said.