By Emily Alvarenga & Caleb Lunetta
Signal Staff Writers
After an in-custody death Sunday and a growing number of overdoses being reported at the Pitchess Detention Center, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department officials declined to answer questions, following another suspected overdose Wednesday.
In the last month, at least 13 inmates were transported to the hospital for suspected overdoses reported from within the jail, spanning across multiple campuses and the facility’s infirmary, while Fire Department personnel responded to Pitchess on multiple more occasions.
A death within the jail was reported Sunday, however, officials at the L.A. County Medical Examiner-Coroner’s Office have not yet released the cause of death for the decedent, 27-year-old David Sanchez.
In the most recent incident Wednesday, L.A. County Fire Department personnel once again responded to the North County Correctional Facility, the jail’s maximum-security facility, for a “male unconscious” around 3:45 p.m. and transported one patient to a local hospital, according to Supervisor Cheryl Sims.
On Wednesday, the “higher-ups” at the Sheriff’s Department said they would not be commenting on what they believe the cause of the string of overdoses was or what drugs are causing the overdoses, citing legal concerns, according to Deputy Alejandra Parra of the Sheriff’s Information Bureau.
“Due to pending litigation, we’re not releasing a statement at this time,” Parra added.
The Signal, since the string of overdoses began with at least a half-dozen inmates in late May, has made numerous inquiries to the Sheriff’s Department as to how the drugs entered the secured facility. Officials repeatedly have cited the incidents as part of an investigation, refusing to comment on the nature of the drugs ingested and how the drugs were brought into the maximum-security facility.
Deputy Joanna Warren of SIB previously told The Signal the drugs that the inmates were believed to have overdosed on was a form of synthetic marijuana, also referred to as spice, which might have been laced with additional chemicals. That information was based on preliminary reports gathered by investigators and was subject to change pending further investigation.
During a recent incident at the jail on June 21, when North County Correctional Facility personnel were investigating an inmate fight in one of its housing locations, deputies identified three inmates who were experiencing symptoms of a potential drug overdose, according to SIB officials.
Deputies immediately began rendering aid to the inmates and administered Naloxone, or Narcan, a life-saving opioid antagonist that can reverse the effects of a fatal overdose, with all three inmates reportedly “alert and speaking with personnel” shortly after receiving the doses, according to Deputy Eva Jimenez of SIB.
Fire Department representative Franklin Lopez confirmed all three patients were suspected of overdosing, with all patients being transported to the hospital with advanced life support.
After receiving a medical evaluation at the hospital, the inmates were released a short time later and returned to the facility.
This was at least the second of multiple incidents were Narcan had been administered to save the unconscious inmates’ lives.
After the first string of overdoses was reported at NCCF, Sheriff Alex Villanueva tweeted out footage from the incidents, as well as a statement touting his “Naloxone Custody Pilot Project.”
“Currently, two Narcan doses are being distributed in each of the dorms at the (North County Correctional Facility),” according to a statement on the sheriff’s website. “If the pilot program continues to save lives, the department plans to expand this program to all custody facilities.”
“Sheriff Villanueva is the only sheriff in the nation that has implemented a pilot Narcan program in the jail facilities,” Parra added Wednesday.
No information is currently available as of the publication of this story on the exact status of the most recent patient, nor others transported to the hospital in the last month.