Washington Court House will continue charging overdosed addicts with inducing panic

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WASHINGTON COURT HOUSE, OH (WCMH) — The community of Washington Court House has gotten a lot of attention for how it is handling some drug overdose cases.

In February, Washington Court House police began charging people with inducing panic if they need to be revived with naloxone.

Inducing panic is a first-degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to six months in county jail and a $1,000 fine.

Washington Court House police records show at least 12 people have been charged with inducing panic during the last 6 weeks.

All cases involved individuals who overdosed on drugs and required first responders to revive them.

The ACLU of Ohio is stepping in and asking the city to stop charging overdosed addicts with inducing panic.

“These are people who need medical help, not arrests and not a criminal record,” says spokesman Gary Daniels.

A formal letter written by the ACLU of Ohio contained the request, which was received by city officials Tuesday.

“This idea that with something as serious as the drug problem here in Ohio that you are going to arrest, convict, and incarcerate your way out of a problem, that’s the wrong approach,” Daniels says.

Washington Court House Police Chief Brian Hottinger says this practice has never been about jailing addicts.

“We are not after jail time. We are not after fine money. We are simply looking to get these people some assistance. Obviously they need it, but they are not seeking it willingly upon themselves to get the assistance,” he says.

City Manager Joe Denen says the city is not planning any changes based on the ACLU’s request. He issued a statement to NBC4 that reads:

“In challenging circumstances, charging some individuals with inducing panic provides the court system with a means of connecting people in need of treatment with treatment opportunities. All viewpoints on the question of heroin addition are appreciated, it’s not logical to shut any door. Nevertheless, when confronted with the options of trying to help or doing nothing, action would appear to be of greater value to the person in need of help. No desire exists to engage in a confrontation with the ACLU or any organization.  The guiding question remains the value of human life and dignity of people.”

Chief Hottinger says court ordered counseling and detox stemming from an inducing panic charge could save a life.  This is just one other line of defense in the battle against the opioid epidemic, Hottinger says.

“If the counseling works for one person then that would be nice. It would be worth it.”

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