Fire chief: Cost aside, emergency services have 'moral, legal' obligations to treat overdose victims

Posted at 12:17 PM, Jun 22, 2017
and last updated 2017-06-23 01:01:20-04

MIDDLETOWN, Ohio -- Is it possible, Middletown City Council member Dan Picard asked Thursday, for city emergency services not to respond to overdose calls?

Citing the fact that the city of Middletown is on track to spend $100,000 on Narcan -- ten times what it had initially budgeted for the opioid-counteracting drug -- in 2017, Picard wanted to know whether the government has any legal obligation to revive people who have overdosed.

In other words, can the government legally leave overdose victims to die -- or live, provided another person nearby has access to Narcan and the ability to use it -- in the name of cost-cutting? 

The answer from Fire Chief Paul Lolli was a flat rebuke.

"We have moral obligations, legal obligations," Lolli said. 

He acknowledged that the financial strain presented by Narcan costs is real, but said simply cutting overdose victims off would not end the area's opioid epidemic.

"I understand it, but at the end of the day, there's people saying, ‘We need to stop giving Narcan and this will solve the proble,'" he said. "That's not going to solve the problem."

City manager Doug Adkins suggested Middletown look at privatizing emergency services and said he would talk to the city's law department for an opinion on that possibility.

Council member Picard also suggested offsetting the cost of Narcan by issuing a court summons to overdose victims who had been revived with Narcan and asking them to complete community service as payment.