EAST LIVERPOOL, Ohio (WKBN) – The photos of an unconscious man and woman in a car with a 4-year-old in the backseat have gone viral. Now the East Liverpool Police Department is explaining why it believes posting those graphic images was so important.
Those pictures were taken by an off-duty East Liverpool police officer, who noticed the car driving erratically and almost hitting a school bus. He grabbed the keys to turn off the car when it came to a stop, as the driver passed out in front of him.
The city has seen many drug overdoses, but few people even know about them. Chief John Lane says that on Thursday night, the drug problem came to a head.
“I mean, this is a major issue. It’s an epidemic, it’s everywhere and you’ve got people that are dying. We had two overdoses last night, it’s just nonstop.”
He says that’s why they decided to post the now infamous pictures; to make an impact.
“This was not a decision made willy-nilly. We discussed this, we talked to the prosecutors upstairs, got their opinions on that. We went with the administration upstairs. The mayor and the safety services director were all involved in this decision.”
WKBN 27 First News blurred the child’s face to try to protect his identity, but Lane says blurring any part of it misses the point.
“If you blur out that kid’s face, you lose the impact of it,” he said. “It will force the issue and get help, because that’s what needs to happen.”
Some mental health professionals disagree.
“The fact that that young child’s face was not blurred, that is a moment in time of his childhood that will be forever frozen for everyone in the world to see on the internet from here going forward,” said Kathie Chaffee, director of Columbiana County Mental Health and Recovery Services.
She says that pictures like these aren’t effective in curbing drug behavior.
“Stigma, a lot of times, adds to the shame people with addictions have and it keeps them from seeking help. You know, people don’t want to admit they have a problem.”
Instead, Chaffee suggests police take a softer, more traditional approach.
“I think police departments should carry Narcan. Our first responders do in Columbiana County who are medically trained. When people are revived, they should be given information about, here’s where you can go for help.”
Chaffee says that in Columbiana County, there are a number of resources for people struggling with addiction. This includes outpatient resources, recovery housing and peer support.
East Liverpool City Hospital offers a medical stabilization program to help people withdraw.
The Columbiana Mental Health and Recovery Services Board has posted even more resources online.