WASHINGTON COURT HOUSE, Ohio (AP) — An Ohio community is trying to fight the heroin epidemic by bringing a misdemeanor charge against drug users who are revived by emergency responders using an overdose antidote.
Authorities began using that strategy last month in Washington Court House, a Fayette County community roughly halfway between Cincinnati and Columbus. They’re citing people with inducing panic if responders revive them with naloxone, police Chief Brian Hottinger said.
The misdemeanor charge is punishable by up to 180 days in jail and a $1,000 fine.
City Attorney Mark Pitstick told WSYX-TV that the strategy is aimed not at locking up more people, but at giving authorities a way to track who has overdosed and to try to offer assistance.
“We’re here to help,” Pitstick said. “We’re not here to put them in jail.”
At least seven people have been issued summonses for inducing panic, so far.
WSYX-TV said those it reached from that group declined to talk about their cases or the police approach.
City officials said that people who call 911 for an overdose or people who are with the drug user won’t be charged.
The change in approach comes after a burst of overdoses in Fayette County in late January and early February, when there were 30 suspected overdoses, including six deaths, in a 10-day period, WCMH-TV reported.