SCSO: 16 employees, 5 inmates treated after substance exposure at jail

BLOUNTVILLE, Tenn. (WJHL) — The Sullivan County Sheriff’s Office (SCSO) said 16 correctional staff members and five inmates were transported to a hospital following a medical emergency on Friday due to substance exposure.

A news release from the SCSO on Monday said the incident occurred on Friday at 7:30 p.m. in an inmate housing unit. The release said county correctional staff responded to the unit, where a “medical emergency involving several inmates had just occurred.”

The inmates appeared to be under the influence of an unknown substance, the release said. Correctional staff immediately began administering care to affected inmates while awaiting Sullivan County EMS response.

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During this process, the release said several officers and medical staff started experiencing symptoms including “respiratory distress, excessive sweating, accelerated heart rate, and tingling and numbness of extremities. “

The sheriff’s office said due to the severity of the symptoms, sixteen staff members and five inmates were taken to local hospitals. All individuals were treated, “decontaminated” and subsequently released.

Investigators did field testing for substances at the scene to determine a cause for the incident, and the release states that initial testing “confirmed the presence of methamphetamines.”

The release said further investigation is being conducted to track down the source of the substance and how it got into the jail. Correctional staff and inmates affected will continue to receive follow-up care and support, according to the SCSO.

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