CINCINNATI -- The Hamilton County Sheriff's Office has seen its first resident take them up on their offer of immunity for drugs and drug paraphernalia.
The individual brought a collection of drug paraphernalia to the Sheriff's Office District 5 in Anderson Township Sunday morning, Sheriff Jim Neil announced Tuesday.
The items included two hypodermic needles, five glass crack pipes, four metal crack popes, five plastic straws with drug residue, two push-rods, a tie-off and a scrubber for the crack pipes. The person had been holding them for a friend currently going through a drug treatment program, but wanted to make sure the friend did not return to using drugs.
"When we offered this option to the public, this is exactly what we hoped would happen," Neil said. "The addict is in a treatment program, the friend is helping their loved one get clean and we've taken drugs and drug paraphernalia off the streets."
Last month, amidst a sudden increase of overdoses across Cincinnati and surrounding areas, a Hamilton County judge signed the "unprecedented" immunity order at the request of Neil and Prosecutor Joe Deters.
Under the immunity order, a person can take drugs they believe may cause an overdose to any police or sheriff's station in the county -- no questions asked.
Dennis Deters, chairman of the Hamilton County Heroin Coalition, said the immunity clause allows drug users, as well as their friends and family, to act without fearing the legal consequences of prosecution or the public humiliation of being arrested.
"We need to encourage people to do more of this," Deters said. "It relates to, obviously, getting these drugs off the street, but (also) getting help for their loved one with a piece of mind that it’s not going to be something that is publicized."
Officials said that they believed heroin mixed with carfentanil -- a synthetic elephant tranquilizer -- was to blame for the spike in overdoses. First responders working to revive those who overdosed would need to use multiple doses of Narcan, an anti-opiate treatment, to save their patients.
For anyone turning in carfentanil, it's important to be careful. Hamilton County Coroner Dr. Lakshmi Sammarco previously said that anyone handling it should wear gloves and put the substance in a zip-top plastic bag, then wash their hands.