If someone survives a drug overdose in Highland County they can now be charged with felony possession if they do not report to a drug treatment program within thirty days, according to Highland County Prosecuting Attorney Anneka Collins – and, Collins said, she’ll do anything she can to make sure people get the treatment they need.
“I don’t want to have to charge people,” she said. “I want them to get help.”
Collins sat down with The Times-Gazette to discuss Ohio’s new “Good Samaritan Law” – a state directive changing the way Ohio communities deal with overdoses.
House Bill 110, signed into law in September of last year, grants full immunity to those who report overdoses, and temporary immunity to those who overdose on drugs, contingent on whether or not they enter a drug treatment program within 30 days, Collins said.
According to Collins, if the overdose survivor fails to report assessment and enrollment, they can be charged with felony possession.
Collins recently began collaborating with law enforcement, emergency medical responders and two local drug treatment programs to enforce the program locally – and, she said, the results have been encouraging.
Collins said she reached out to Family Recovery Services in Hillsboro and Freel and Associates in Greenfield to gauge their interest, and they were very cooperative.
“They have been awesome,” she said.
Law enforcement and emergency medical responders have been cooperative as well, Collins said.
Now, when someone overdoses and survives in Highland County, law enforcement issues them a blank release form and a letter of notification saying they must report proof of treatment to the prosecutor’s office or face felony charges within 30 days of the overdose.
The Highland County Sheriff’s Office and police departments in Hillsboro, Greenfield, Lynchburg and Leesburg have all been provided with the release forms and notification letters, and most have been actively issuing them to overdose survivors.
Collins said she has been notified that in the month of March, four of 11 people who overdosed and survived in Hillsboro were served with the notification, 12 out of 18 were served in Greenfield, and two out of two were served in Lynchburg. Collins said she was notified that the Highland County Sheriff’s Office served four out of 12 overdose survivors in the county. She said more may have received the notification but she has not been informed of those yet.
Out of a total of 41 people in March, she has been informed that 22 were served with the notification, and so far, three have been assessed and are currently in treatment, Collins said.
Collins told The Times-Gazette if she gets a report someone has dropped out of a program, she will personally call them and tell them to go back.
“If the treatment center notifies me, I will call them and try to track them down,” she said.
As time goes on, Collins said she expects to see more overdose survivors enter treatment – but until then, she can only hope.
“This is what was intended when HB 110 was passed,” Collins said. “I hope it helps.”
According to Branden Jackman, public information officer for Paint Creek Joint EMS/Fire District, Collins’ initiative comes not a moment too soon.
“The numbers have changed drastically,” Jackman said, saying Paint Creek alone responded to 45 overdose calls last month, while in March of 2016 they responded to only 12. In the first quarter of last year, Paint Creek responded to roughly 27 overdose calls, while in the first quarter of this year they handled 95.
“That number is going to change any minute,” Jackman said.
Paint Creek, which covers an area of about 330 square miles, responds to the most emergency calls in the county, Jackman said, and based on the previous numbers, roughly 10 percent of those calls are overdoses.
Reach David Wright at 937-402-2570, or on Twitter @DavidWrighter.