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Addiction is not a ballgame.

Over the past 24 hours, numerous stories have popped up regarding a proposal from an obscure city official from Middleton, Ohio. Councilman Dan Picard proposed a 3-strike policy for people who experience an opioid overdose. In short, if a person overdoses—and is revived with naloxone—a first and second time, an emergency call for the third overdose would result in the dispatcher hanging up on the caller, and EMS would not respond, effectively aiding and abetting a death.

This is almost unfathomably cruel and murderous. For policy-makers who are actually knowledgeable about substance use disorder and the heroin/opioid crisis, this approach is misguided, uninformed, and completely absurd.

The mere suggestion of this policy speaks to the magnitude of prejudice and misunderstanding extant among our elected officials, not to mention the general public. Our elected officials are charged with making policies that impact individuals, families, and communities. Dan Picard’s proposal, made without even a baseline understanding of addiction as a serious-but-treatable disease, can be characterized as something that lies in-between lame-brained and criminally negligent.

Lawmakers often don’t understand the numerous other barriers, nuances, and unique vulnerabilities those with substance use disorders face. They don’t understand that treatment is not always available, and if it is, it’s too expensive for most people to access. They don’t understand that, with addiction, recurrences (relapses) sometimes happen, just as with any other chronic health condition.

This ridiculous policy lends itself to the question of whether this 3-strike policy should be expanded to other health conditions, like heart attacks, diabetes, or other mental health crises. The question is especially relevant as communities grapple with increasing healthcare costs and diminishing resources. What other conditions become sufficiently expensive that some callous, ignorant, bureaucrat might suggest that we deny treatment if they recur more than twice?

We share the Councilman’s frustration. This terrible epidemic is not abating and nothing seems effective. Drastic times do indeed call for drastic measures, and perhaps he was desperately grasping at straws, seeking any solution to a seemingly insoluble problem.

Whatever his motivation, Councilman Picard is proposing that the city, with an ability to help people, stand by and watch them die. This heartless approach accomplishes nothing more than further destroying families and communities. Middleton, Ohio can and must do better.

So must we all.

Brandon Costerison is a Public Awareness Specialist at NCADA.

Categories: Commentary

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