Tainted heroin reported in San Miguel County

March 13, 2013 • State News

LAS VEGAS, N.M. (AP) — Tainted heroin apparently is to blame for one death and several hospitalizations among people booked into the San Miguel County jail in recent weeks, officials said.

Authorities are using medical screenings and other steps to try to detect warning signs of use of contaminated heroin as people are taken into custody, the Las Vegas Optic ( ) reported.

“The bottom line is this stuff is deadly, and everyone needs to stay completely away from it,” [auth] Warden Patrick Snedeker said.

Symptoms include seizures, hyperventilation, hallucinations and dangerous changes in vital signs, he said.

The first case involved a 41-year-old woman who died Feb. 19 after being hospitalized a week earlier on Feb. 12, Snedeker said.

She suffered a seizure 12 hours after she was booked into the jail for charges that included driving on a revoked license and not having proof of registration or proof of insurance.

Jail officials then began seeing the same symptoms in other inmates who were long-term chronic heroin users, the Las Vegas Optic reported.

“It’s got to be (tainted heroin), with all the similar symptoms they’ve been having,” said Amanda Martinez, health services administrator with Health Care Partners Foundation, the nonprofit organization that provides medical services to detainees.

Snedeker said lab work at the hospital indicates that the stricken people used drugs and that interviews disclosed heroin use.

“It’s tainted, and they’re mixing it with bath salts,” he said.

Antonio Padilla, chief of security at the jail, said jail officials are asking law enforcement agencies to have prisoners screened by a doctor at Alta Vista Regional Hospital before they’re taken to the jail.

“That way maybe we can catch it before they fall apart here at the detention center,” Padilla said.

Snedeker said the situation has been stressful to people who work at the detention center, prompting officials to activate the employee assistance program.

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