Errors by nurses at Connecticut’s understaffed York prison for women caused methadone overdoses for at least five inmates in recent months — a consequence of a staffing shortage and an opioid epidemic among offenders inside and outside of prison, the Hartford Courant reports. The mishaps occurred against the backdrop of a highly stressed prison health care system, a crisis that has left the Department of Correction vulnerable to taxpayer-funded settlements of inmate lawsuits. The department has been flagged in at least 25 medical cases in which the agency has been sued or expects to be sued, including eight inmate deaths. One nurse was fired in connection with two of the dosing errors and three other errors remain under investigation. The overdoses were not fatal. Two of the inmates had to be revived with Narcan, the opiate antidote.
Dozens of addicted inmates at York queue up each day on the “med line” for their dose of methadone. At least one of the inmates who overdosed had grabbed a cup of methadone from a tray and gulped it after a nurse had left the window. The inmate received a second dose when the nurse returned. Other inmates were either inadvertently given methadone doses that were too strong or they had been given a second dose. Union officials have said that 253 positions need to be filled to provide basic inmate medical and mental-health care in state prisons. Medical staff members are routinely ordered to work several double-shifts per week, creating a dangerous condition for both the staff and the inmates, the union said. Last year, 845 inmates were on methadone treatment. Nurses at York handed out 20,000 doses of methadone last year. Since 2017, 56 offenders on parole died of opioid or fentanyl overdoses. At least 80 percent of the prison population of 13,010 struggles with addiction.