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Whatcom County Jail corrections deputies thwart suicide attempt, fentanyl overdose in same night

Corrections deputies at the Whatcom County Jail saved two lives Tuesday night by stopping an inmate’s suicide attempt and later preventing another inmate’s fentanyl overdose by using Narcan, the Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office announced Friday.

According to the sheriff’s office, on Tuesday around 6 p.m., a corrections deputy noticed an inmate walking up a set of stairs with an improvised rope made of sheets and towels.

The deputy called for backup to intervene in a suicide attempt and opened an outer sally port door to prepare for emergency entry.

The inmate had tied one end of the rope to the upper railing and put the other end around his neck. He then started to climb over the stair handrail and slowly lowered himself until he was about three feet above the floor.

The inmate then let go of his handhold on the rope and the rope stretched to the point that his feet reached the ground, breaking the rope.

Backup deputies arrived and entered the housing unit. As they entered, the inmate began to go back up the stairs to where the rope was tied.

Deputies worked to move the man from the stairs and physically restrained him. He was then escorted to a safety cell to be seen by medical and mental health staff and was placed on watch to prevent further self-harm.

Hours later, around 9:30 p.m., an inmate was reported to be having a seizure. Deputies responded to the cell and found the inmate lying on his back, unconscious but breathing.

Based on their training, deputies indicated that the man was suffering from a fentanyl overdose. Two doses of Narcan were administered, and an emergency aid car was called.

The inmate’s breathing improved and he started to regain consciousness. When aid arrived, the inmate was transported to an area hospital for further care and was later returned to the jail’s medical observation unit.

The inmate’s cell was searched, but nothing was found.

“The county jail is housing an unprecedented number of inmates who have severe mental health and substance abuse issues,” said Whatcom County Sheriff Bill Elfo. “As a result, our corrections deputies work in an incredibly dangerous and challenging environment. Nonetheless, they rise to the occasion and perform competently and compassionately. Their rapid and successful responses to these two incidents undoubtedly resulted in the saving of human lives. We should all be very proud of the work they do.”