As Cost Of Opioid Epidemic Rises, One City May Consider Not Reviving Addicts Who Repeatedly Overdose

With opioid painkiller and heroin use exploding to the point where police officers, firefighters, and even librarians are carrying (and using) Narcan, an emergency treatment that can revive someone who has overdosed. While the drug is saving lives, it’s not free, and one Ohio city is being asked to consider whether it has to use Narcan on people who repeatedly overdose.

The city of Middletown, OH, located between Cincinnati and Dayton, says it will likely spend $100,000 this year for Narcan. That’s ten times what it had originally budgeted for the drug. The number of overdoses in Middletown during the first half of 2017 has already surpassed the total from all of 2016, notes WLWT-TV.

The Journal-News of Dayton reports that one city council member wants to know if city emergency responders have a legal requirement to use Narcan to revive every person who overdoses.

The councilman has proposed that the city consider taking a three strikes approach to treating overdose patients; that people who OD more than a few times no longer receive Narcan.

“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,” the councilman explained to WLWT.

“I want to send a message to the world that you don’t want to come to Middletown to overdose because someone might not come with Narcan and save your life,” he told the Journal-New. “We need to put a fear about overdosing in Middletown.”

He explained, according to the paper, that EMTs don’t provide cancer patients with chemotherapy or perform heart transplants on people dying of a heart attack. Of course, those aren’t apples to apples comparisons. They’re more like comparing apples to turkey.

Of course an EMT wouldn’t provide chemotherapy, as it’s not an emergency treatment. But if a cancer patient were to experience seizures or some other related medical emergency, an EMT would step in. Similarly, no EMT is going to replace your failing heart, but they will try to keep it beating until you get to a hospital.

The head of the Middletown Fire Department says his people will continue to respond to calls and provide treatment as they have sworn to do. He also expressed concern that picking and choosing who merits treatment could open up the city to liability.

The city manager says he believes that emergency responders are required to treat whatever conditions they encounter when arriving at the scene. The only way to avoid this obligation for the city would be to privatize or eliminate EMT services.