As opioid overdoses exact a higher price, communities ponder who should be saved – By Tim Craig and Nicole Lewis July 15 at 7:41 PM


Sheriff Richard Jones in Butler County, Ohio, refuses to let his police officers carry Narcan, a nasal spray that counters the effects of opioid overdose. (Whitney Shefte/The Washington Post)

Why this Ohio sheriff won’t let officers carry the drug that saves people from drug overdoses

The coroner here in the outer suburbs of Cincinnati gets the call almost every day.

Man “slumped over the dining room table.” Woman “found in the garage.” Man “found face down on the kitchen floor of his sister’s resi`dence.” Man “on his bedroom floor — there was a syringe beneath the body.” Coroner Lisa K. Mannix chronicles them all in autopsy reports.

With 96 fatal overdoses in just the first four months of this year, Mannix said the opioid epidemic ravaging western Ohio and scores of other communities along the Appalachian Mountains and the rivers that flow from it continues to worsen. Hospitals are overwhelmed with overdoses, small-town morgues are running out space for the bodies, and local officials from Kentucky to Maine are struggling to pay for attempting to revive, rehabilitate or bury the victims.

As their budgets strain, communities have begun questioning how much money and effort they should be spending to deal with overdoses, especially in cases involving people who have taken near-fatal overdoses multiple times. State and local officials say it might be time for “tough love”: pushing soaring medical costs onto drug abusers or even limiting how many times first responders can save an individual’s life.

“It’s not that I don’t want to treat overdose victims, it’s that the city cannot afford to treat overdose victims,” said Middletown Council Member Daniel Picard, noting this industrial town in northern Butler County might have to raise taxes in response to the crisis.

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