With the country in the grips of an opioid epidemic, cities and towns are quickly blowing through their budgets providing expensive live-saving treatments to overdose victims. One town in Ohio wants to save money by setting up a controversial three-strike policy to discourage addicts from relapsing.
Middletown’s proposed policy would give heroin addicts two free chances to get Narcan (Naloxone) to treat their overdose. For each rescue, heroin abusers must then perform community service for the equivalent amount of money used on the medical treatment. On their third strike, the heroin users will not be given medical treatment if they have not completed the community service to pay for previous treatments.
The town has already treated 577 heroin overdoses with Narcan so far this year. The previous year, there were 532 overdoses, which cost the town $11,000 on the life-saving drug. In 2017, the town has spent $30,000 on Narcan so far—a number that’s expected to rise.
According to WCMH-TV Columbus, the number of overdose-related deaths has been on the rise, with 51 reported this year. It was 74 for all of last year.
“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,” said Middletown city council member Dan Picard.
Fire department officials say that they are required by law to provide the life-saving medication if they respond to overdose reports. Picard says that the proposal is not an attempt to not save anyone’s life, but rather to save the city’s finances.