People who overdose from heroin in the town of Washington Court House, Ohio, will be charged with a crime: inducing panic (video below).
City Attorney Mark Pitsick defended the criminalization to WSYX: "We are trying everything we can do. It's an epidemic."
People will be charged with a misdemeanor -- punishable by a $1,000 fine and up to 180 days in jail -- if medics or police revive them with naloxone, an anti-overdose medication.
Pitsick said filing charges is a way to track those who have overdosed and try to get them the help they need.
In February and March, seven survivors were charged with the crime.
Good Samaritans who call 911 when someone overdoses will not be charged with a criminal offense, but if someone is overdosing and he or she calls 911, that person is at risk of having a criminal record.
Despite the jail time as part of the punishment, Pitsick insisted the law was not about jailing people:
Service. Follow up. Just them understanding that people do care. We are here to help. We are not here to put them in jail ... They don't have hope to begin with, but by helping them we hope we are giving them the ability to turn their lives around.
Washington Court House Police Chief Brian Hottinger told WCMH that his officers will charge overdose victims with inducing panic if no other charges can be brought.
News site Attn noted some of the reactions to the new policy on Twitter:
why haven't they been doing this all this time? Force them into treatment or face stiff fines.
I like this idea when my son overdosed in my house few years ago I begged police to charge him for having drugs and using in my home.
parents have to pay a fortune for an epi pen to save their kids life yet these ppl get revived for free? need more than a misdemanor.
Criminal charges are way to far, they need rehab not prison.
As if that will solve anything.
that is not a good idea. It will discourage people from calling for help.
WTF?! F*** that. We need to stop inflating the police budgets and concentrate on rehabilitation. But hey cops need military weapons.
Washington Court House sits in Fayette County where, in early February, the sheriff’s office said there were 30 reports of suspected overdoses in 10 days, including one inside the Fayette County Jail.
Fayette County Deputy Health Commissioner Leigh Cannon said the naloxone supply was dwindling because of the recent increase in drug overdoses and the number of doses given to each victim.