Officials working out the details for drug immunity plan

Posted at 5:59 PM, Sep 08, 2016
and last updated 2016-09-08 18:31:33-04

CINCINNATI -- Law enforcement officials are working to come up with the rules and protocols needed so that residents can bring drugs to police stations and receive immunity from prosecution.

People in Hamilton County can bring heroin, fentanyl and carfentanil to any police station to get it off the streets after a judge signed an "unprecedented" order Wednesday granting immunity from prosecution for anyone who turns over drugs that may cause an overdose.

The goal of the order is to get drugs off the streets as they've been causing hundreds of overdoses and at least eight deaths.

Now the details of the plan need to be finalized.

Colerain Township Public Services Director Dan Meloy said the rules need to ensure safety for residents and first responders.

"It makes really good sense because we're challenging the status quo, so I give everybody credit for doing that, but let's make sure we do it right," Meloy said. "Let's make sure we look at all the issues and the factors that come into play… And then see what we can do to do it safely."

The Hamilton County Sheriff's Office is drafting the policies for distribution to police departments.

Tony Couch of Fairfield was hooked on heroin five years ago. He once overdosed, and was revived with Narcan. Now he counsels other drug users on how to come clean.

Couch said he thinks the immunity swap is a good thing, but doesn't go far enough.

"An addict is not going to get help if there's no hope," he said. "You can turn the drugs in, but if there's no help in turning the drugs in, all they're going to do is buy more."

Dr. Shawn Ryan of Brightview Health said the immunity idea has its merits.

"It's obviously just part of the answer, but I think the lower legal consequences or limited legal consequences is the right way to go," Ryan said.

But will the plan stem the flow of drugs into the area?

"Economically, there's so much money to be made, I'm not convinced that interrupting that flow is going to have a significant impact on the back end," Ryan said. "The answer is more treatment."