CW39 NewsFix recently featured a story from Ohio about a quite controversial way to deal with the opioid addiction crisis currently affecting that state. From the article:
Middletown City Council member Dan Picard is proposing to give drug users two chances. Paramedics would respond to an overdose twice, and each time the addict would receive a summons and be required to do community service after being treated.
But if they don’t show up in court, don’t complete the service and then overdose a third time? That’s it. No one will come to help them.
Now, the first part is bad enough. Drug addiction needs to be treated as a medical problem, not a legal problem. This is exactly what is wrong with using criminal laws to combat the drug problem. They are simply the wrong tool for the job.
But the idea of paramedics being told, by law, to refuse to save someone’s life is outrageous. And I mean that literally: the idea should be enough to trigger outrage in the community in question, and beyond. It’s enough to outrage me all the way over here in Houston, Texas. It’s unconscionable, unscrupulous, illogical, and reckless. All in the name of saving the city a few bucks, which makes it that much more infuriating to me.
And it turns out I’m not the only one to feel this way:
Truth Pharm, a national advocacy group focusing on substance addiction and drug policy, wrote an open letter to Picard on the organization’s website criticizing his approach.
“To suggest that you withhold emergency medical response to overdose patients is manslaughter at best and premeditated murder at worse,” the letter read.
I’m with Truth Pharm on this. As of the last time I checked, state law takes precedence over city and other local laws. I would find it hard to imagine a state with any degree of law and order where it does not.
There are logical, humane, and compassionate ways to solve the problem of repeated drug overdoses. This definitely isn’t one of them. I wish Ohioans the best in getting through this, but please remember those suffering from drug addiction are people too.