COVINGTON — Heroin overdoses became an unplanned topic of discussion during Monday night’s Covington Council meeting, leading one council member to make a controversial statement while expressing frustration at the continuing epidemic.
Covington Chief of Police Lee Harmon updated the council on a heroin coalition town hall meeting happening in Covington on May 8, between 7-8 p.m. Harmon said that the event will most likely be held at the new Covington K-8 School, but Harmon is still working to confirm that with Covington schools.
“Very good. Very informative,” Harmon said about the upcoming town hall meeting. There will be representatives from law enforcement agencies, representatives from the the court system, and healthcare workers
“We’re trying to get around to every community,” Harmon said, adding that similar events have been held in Tipp City and another is expected to happen in West Milton.
Council member Lois Newman asked Harmon a few questions about first responders and heroin overdoses, first asking if Covington police officers carry Narcan with them in regard to emergency calls about possible drug-related overdoses. Harmon said that Covington police officers do not, but noted that since Covington Fire and Rescue has become a 24-hour response team, their squad arrives at the scene of an emergency as quickly as police officers do and the squad carries Narcan with them.
Newman asked Harmon how many doses of Narcan the squad typically administers to drug overdose patients. Harmon did not have an average, but said that he recently responded with a squad to an overdose patient who received eight doses of Narcan. Newman asked if the person who overdosed and receives the Narcan gets charged, and Harmon stated that it depends. If there is evidence of drug use, such as hypodermic needles and suspected heroin on the person, then the person can be charged.
Newman first said that she thought, “If you get Narcan, you either get charged or go to rehab.” She then made the controversial statement of, “Let their (expletive) die” if the squad has to respond to the same person for multiple overdose calls. Newman immediately said “sorry” afterward.
Newman brought up the rising costs of EpiPens, which inject doses of adrenaline to patients reacting to serious allergic reactions, and expressed frustration at seeing people struggle to pay for EpiPens while people overdosing from heroin receive multiple doses of Narcan.
“My point is, why should we save their life so they can go right back and do it the second time, third time, fourth time, when the EpiPen is costing $600, $700, $800, and people who can’t afford that who need that can’t get that,” Newman said. “That’s what I’m trying to say.”
“There’s a lot of anger and a lot of different feelings out there along those lines,” Mayor Ed McCord said.
Village Attorney Frank Patrizio pointed out that the heroin epidemic has contributed to a rise in both drug-related offenses in the village and thefts to pay for drug habits.
This discussion occurred before the meeting had officially adjourned, but it was not on the council’s agenda.
When reached for comment Tuesday afternoon, Newman said, “I’m a firm believer that you either go to jail or you go to rehab.” Newman clarified her statements as she believed first responders should still respond to drug overdoses even if the subject has overdosed before but the subject should either have to pay for the Narcan, go to jail, or go to rehab.
“They (first responders) should still go, but I don’t think they need to be giving them that Narcan,” Newman said. Newman later added that the subject should still receive the Narcan but, “if you do it the second time, you’re either going to get charged (financially), go to jail, or go to rehab, or die.”
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