Montgomery County, Ohio. The county I was born and raised in, now also known for leading the country in opioid overdose deaths. As of June 19th, 365 people had died. Compare that to 371 opioid overdose deaths for the entire year of 2016, and the crisis becomes even more evident.
The crisis doesn’t just effect emergency response crews. The coroner’s office has had to rent refrigerated storage to contains bodies because they simply don’t have enough space to house them all.
As the State of Ohio released its 2016 overdose death statistics, several government officials made national headlines for their positions on the subject.
Butler County, located south of Montgomery County, has also seen an alarming increase in drug overdose deaths. Sheriff Richard Jones made the decision early on that his deputies will never carry Narcan. They are currently the only law enforcement agency in southwest Ohio that doesn’t carry it.
But should law enforcement officers be forced to carry and administer a medication used to block the effects of opioids, especially in an overdose? Is it acceptable to allow non-medical personnel to administer drugs? Are they personally responsible if they carry it, but don’t administer it? What if they administer it on someone who doesn’t need it?
Recently Middletown (located in Butler County) city councilman Dan Picard suggested a “three strikes and you’re out” policy. His plan included the possibility of denying medical care to individuals who sought medical treatment for overdoses on two prior occasions.
Doesn’t this conflict with the reason we all started our careers?
What if an officer overdoses multiple times due to exposures? Let him/her die on the third exposure? What if it’s a child with multiple exposures, or a family member?
And if we start down this path, where will it take us? If a diabetic is knowingly noncompliant, would we let them die?
What about the intoxicated person who chose to drive and wrecked his vehicle? Leave them there to die? Where will it stop?
When we respond to an overdose, do you know the thought process and intentions of the user? I don’t, and I can guarantee none of you have that capability either. Was it intentional? Unintentional? Did someone else shoot them up? Is this their first time, or their fiftieth? Why would we be allowed to be someone’s final judge and jury?
This is such a controversial issue, one that people have very strong opinions and beliefs about. One fact stands out among the rest though; we need massive help to combat this. It touches so many lives, and so many are suffering; the addicts, their friends and families, first responders, hospitals, treatment centers, social services, insurance companies, funeral homes, cemeteries and employers.
I know morally, I could not allow someone to die, if I had the means to save them. It goes against everything I believe in, and all of the reasons I continue to do this job after 26 years.
I don’t want to decide who lives and who dies. Do you?
– Lara Bair