Chillicothe, OH – Prison employees who were exposed to a potentially deadly combination of fentanyl and heroin inside the Ross Correctional Institution have learned that workers compensation will not cover their medical expenses.
The mass casualty incident occurred just before 9 a.m. on Aug. 29, when an inmate exhibited symptoms of a possible drug overdose, WGN reported.
“The ones who were sickest were the ones who responded to the inmate’s bedside,” Adena Medical Center Chief Clinical Officer Dr. Kirk Tucker told The Cincinnati Enquirer.
Out of the 29 individuals who investigators believed were exposed to the substance, 27 were correctional employees, according to The Cincinnati Enquirer.
Four nurses and 23 correctional officers were treated at the hospital, and one staff member was hospitalized.
Those exposed were also given the overdose reversal drug naloxone, Ohio State Highway Patrol Public Affairs Officer Lieutenant Robert Sellers said.
Test results later confirmed that they were exposed to a combination of fentanyl and heroin, WCMH reported.
The opioid drug fentanyl is 50 times stronger than heroin and 100 times more potent that morphine.
Fentanyl can enter a person’s body through the lungs, skin, or eyes once the drug becomes airborne. WCMH reported that an overdose can be caused by as little as 2.3 milligrams of fentanyl.
But despite the blatantly obvious connection between the employees’ medical emergencies and their employment, state workers compensation benefits do not apply to their cases under current rules.
Firefighters, EMTs, and law enforcement officers involved in similar incidents are protected by workers compensation, however.
“This is not fair. It’s not right,” State Representative Rick Perales told WCMH. “They are really providing us that same service of safety and security and we need to provide the resources and benefits based on their job hazards to each of them in the same manner.”
“We believe we have the same risk of exposure, especially being in our facilities today,” Ohio Civil Service Employees Association President Chris Mabe agreed. “When it comes to exposures, when it comes to injuries, I think those are things that should be covered by the workers compensation of the State of Ohio.”
Perales said he is drafting legislation aimed at changing the workers compensation rules to extend the benefits to every employee who serves in the state’s correctional facilities.
“This bill – all it does is simply put them in that same category so they’re allowed that benefit,” he explained.
Perales said he is looking for co-sponsors for the bill, and that he expects the matter won’t be voted on until sometime next year.