COLUMBUS (WCMH) — Like many cities in Ohio, Middletown is struggling to deal with its own heroin problem. One councilman there wants to give addicts three strikes when it comes to overdoses.
Leaders in the southwestern Ohio city are frustrated with trying to find a solution.
Councilman Dan Picard has proposed a controversial measure — a three strikes system. For the first two strikes after an overdose, the person would perform community service for the equivalent amount of money used on the lifesaving response.
But if there’s a third strike…
“If the dispatcher determines that the person who’s overdosed is someone who’s been part of the program for two previous overdoses and has not completed the community service and has not cooperated in the program, then we wouldn’t dispatch,” Picard said.
Middletown Fire disagrees with the proposition and said they are required by law to provide naloxone in an attempt to revive a person who’s overdosed.
Columbus Fire Battalion Chief Steve Martin said he is not going to wade into politics but that they are in the lifesaving business. NBC4 obtained their Mission Statement, which states the words “preservation of life and property.”
Martin said Columbus Fire runs on more than ten possible overdoses a day and during that time, administers — on average — 16 doses of naloxone during those runs.
He said beyond working to save the lives of addicts, they are trying something different.
“Our goal is to keep them alive. We are doing everything we can to not only save their life but to get them in a recovery program.”
They have started RREACT (Rapid Response Emergency Addiction Crisis Team) to help addicts soon after administering naloxone.
“If they are willing to accept treatment, the RREACT team comes out to them with the mental health professional and we try to get them involved in recovery at that moment after Narcan is given,” he said.
Martin said their focus is to stop the cycle of naloxone use by getting addicts to accept treatment at the scene.
“Rather than to turn them down and 12 hours later, their pain and their drive to seek another dose of heroin is forefront in their mind, and here we go again.”
Since spring, Columbus Fire has added five full-time medics due to the increased number of EMS runs.
Another Columbus-area fire department told NBC4 that some addicts get angry after naloxone is administered and they refuse to be transported to area hospitals. The department said they then relapse into another overdose.