One Ohio City is fed up with dealing with drug addicts who overdose over and over again.
Their solution? Simple: Three strikes and you’re out.
But is this really the right way to go about this?
Recently, Dan Picard, a councilman from Middletown, Ohio proposed a new strategy to handle the influx of overdose calls in his city. He claims the city had spent $100,000 on the lifesaving drug. His solution is to limit the number of times an addict can be revived with Narcan.
“It’s not a proposal to solve the drug problem,” Picard said this week. “My proposal is in regard to the financial survivability of our city. If we’re spending $2 million this year and $4 million next year and $6 million after that, we’re in trouble. We’re going to have to start laying off. We’re going to have to raise taxes.”
While it may seem extreme, Picard believes something must be done to reduce the hundreds of thousands of dollars spent administering the overdose antidote Naloxone.
According to the National Institute of Health, Naloxone, also known by the brand name Narcan, is a “medication designed to rapidly reverse opioid overdose.”
How the Proposed Plan Works
The plan proposed states that anyone who overdoses twice must complete community service equivalent to the cost of administering the Narcan. If the person has been provided Narcan two overdoses before and has not completed the required community service requirement, dispatchers will not send help their way.
“If the dispatcher determines that the person whose overdosed is somebody’s that’s been part of this program for two previous overdoses and has not completed community service and has not cooperated in the program, then we wouldn’t dispatch,” Picard explains.
Middletown has seen a significant spike in overdoses. Just last year alone, there were 532 overdoses reported. It may sound extreme, but Picard insists the city cannot afford to continue responding to overdoses at the same rate.
“We’ve got to do what we’ve got to do to maintain our financial security, and this is just costing us too much money,” he told NBC affiliate WLWT.
This city of Middletown, Ohio spent three times as much on Narcan this year as they did all of 2016. The numbers in 2017 already surpass that of the previous year at 577 overdoses so far.
Numbers Soar Throughout Ohio
All across Ohio, communities like Cleveland, Elyria, Parma, Chardon, and others have seen people need Narcan again and again after overdosing on opioids.
As of right now, the fire department is required by law to provide Narcan in response to an overdose. The legal department is reviewing this plan proposed by Picard. In the meantime, the fire department is applying for grants and donation to increase funds for Narcan.
Sal Valdez, the Clinical Coordinator for American Medical Response in Rochester, stated to a local news station, that he responds to at least four drug overdoses every day and about 80 every month. Each time, paramedics administer Narcan, they could need multiple doses. He also notices overdoses occurring in similar areas to repeat offenders.
“Sometimes we do know these patients by name,” Valdez said. “In my experience, we do see the same patients over and over again, and we respond to the same locations.”
Way Too Extreme?
One study estimates the cost of the prescription drug opioid epidemic costs American society $78.5 billion. Regardless, many find this proposed strategy way too extreme. This could mean the difference between life and death for some, preventing them the opportunity to recover.
Daniel Raymond, the deputy director of the Harm Reduction Coalition, told the Washington Post, that he’s “disappointed” by Picard’s plan of action. He noted that the proposal was an insult to families of loved ones struggling with addiction.
“Ohio is an epicenter of the heroin epidemic … and you can empathize with the frustration, but not with this type of solution,” Raymond told The Post.
What are your thoughts on this plan? Personally, it feels like this proposal only further stigmatizes the perception of addiction. Would we treat any other illness in this manner?
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