HILLSBORO — A statement from the Illinois Department of Corrections last week concluded that substances discovered at Graham Correctional Center in Hillsboro tested as nasal spray and baby powder.
First responders would respond at Graham Wednesday afternoon, Jan. 18 for “overdose-like symptoms.” Area agencies began providing extra doses of Narcan, a medicine known for the quick treatment of a known or suspected opioid overdose. The incident sent 18 correctional officers to four different area hospitals.
The officers would receive emergency transportation to Hillsboro Area Hospital, HSHS St. Francis Hospital in Litchfield, SBL Fayette County Hospital in Vandalia, and HSHS Holy Family Hospital in Greenville.
“The substances were identified as nonhazardous and should not have necessitated the use of Narcan or required hospitalization,” the statement from IDOC said. “IDOC works diligently to ensure the safety of both incarcerated individuals and employees and worked swiftly to ensure everyone had access to the care they requested.”
“Although no one in custody required hospitalization, some staff reported feeling dizzy and in an abundance of caution transported to the hospital for observation and treatment,” the statement adds. “Everyone in this incident has been discharged from the hospital.”
IDOC would go on in the statement to determine the substances causing the problem as both nasal spray and baby powder.
The union representing these correctional officers, AFSCME, is questioning that finding, as well as the rationale behind the said finding.
AFSCME director contests findings
AFSCME Council 31 director Roberta Lynch sent a letter to IDOC director Rob Jeffreys Friday. The letter contests the findings. It “takes strong exception to the press statement…in response to the recent suspicious substance incident at Graham Correctional Center.”
Lynch also contests the use of the term “baby powder” and that exposure should have not required hospitalization.
“[It] appears to attempt to minimize the extent of the impact on the staff exposed,” Lynch would state in her letter. She also contests that the statement could even be misleading as to the nature of the substances involved.
The letter further contests the claim that the only symptom observed in reports was dizziness.
“There were, in fact, a number of other symptoms exhibited, including respiratory distress, weakness, and nausea,” the letter continues. “At least one staff member passed out.
Lynch submitted a request for a copy of the toxicology report from the Illinois State Police. The State Police lab determined the basis for calling the substance baby powder.
“[Baby powder] can be severe — even deadly — if it is inhaled,” Lynch wrote, referencing the journal Emergency Medicine.
“The simple fact is that not enough is yet known about exactly what occurred at Graham CC on Jan. 18,” Lynch continues. “We would urge a much more thorough review.”
Eleven members of the county Hazardous Material Team responded to the prison Wednesday evening. They were on site for nearly six hours.
Jake Leonard, a broadcast media and journalism veteran, is the editor-in-chief of Heartland Newsfeed. Leonard is also GM and program director of Heartland Newsfeed Radio Network, wrestling editor and contributing writer for Ambush Sports, a contributing writer for My Sports Vote and Midwest Sports Network, and a former contributor to Bleacher Report and Overtime Heroics. He resides at home in Nokomis, Ill. with his dog Buster.