Opioid overdoses continue to rise, and Ohio is not exempted from the epidemic that has been sweeping the nation. In Middletown, the fire department rarely responds to fires, but answers calls for overdoses at least five times a day on average.
Middletown has a population of 48,791 and it has already seen close to 600 overdoses this year – way more than the entire 2016, NPR reports. As a result, Middletown City Councilman Dan Picard has come up with a surprising proposal: a three-strike rule against those who overdose.
For those who overdose two times, medics might not respond the third time. Picard rationalizes this by saying that the city will run out of funds if these overdoses continue, and they soon won’t be able to provide emergency services at all. He said,
If we don’t do anything, the city’s going to run out of money.
One dose of Naloxene, the life-saving drug reversal drug, costs around $36, and patients may require several doses depending on the opioid they took. The department estimates spending a total of $90,000 on Naloxene this year, which is 50% more than their entire budget for all medications in their ambulances.
Picard has calculated that each overdose costs the city $1,104. In addition, there’s the wear on ambulances, the cost of other drugs, and the respondents’ time. His policy proposal is that the first two times someone overdoses, he or she would have to perform community service to pay back the community. The third time that same person overdoses, but has not completed community service, an ambulance will not respond.
The plan has been called inhumane, but Picard is more worried about the city’s dwindling financial resources that could limit all emergency services. “Not only will overdose patients be dying, accident patients will be dying, heart attack patients will be dying.”
The councilman is not sure about the legalities of the plan, but he believes it could be a solution. The opioid epidemic could cost Middletown over $2 million this year, which is 10% of its tax revenue.
Critics have pointed out that the proposal might not even make such a big difference, as 85% of overdoses are first-timers. Fire department chief Paul Lolli said that only 15% of runs are from multiple overdoses.
Emergency medical service providers are also legally and morally obligated to respond, whatever the case may be. Lolli said, “Most of us in the EMS field believe this is a disease.”
Lawyers are currently researching Picard’s proposal. If they determine that it is indeed legal, the plan will come up for a vote by the city council.