Across the country, opioids killed more than 33,000 people in 2015, more than any year on record, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
As we have noted numerous times, the epidemic is ravaging populations across racial and socioeconomic lines, according to The Post's Joel Achenbach and Dan Keating. Spurred by overdoses, the death rate for Americans rose 8 percent between 2010 and 2015.
And Ohio and other Rust Belt states are at the center of the epidemic. Opioid-related deaths in Ohio jumped from 296 in 2003 to 2,590 in 2015 — a 775 percent jump, according to the Ohio Department of Health.
There's also an economic toll: One study estimated that the cost of the prescription drug opioid epidemic costs American society $78.5 billion.
And one Ohio city council member has a solution...
As The Washington Post reports, under a new plan, people who dial 911 seeking help for someone who's overdosing on opioids may start hearing something new from dispatchers: “No.”
In response to the opioid epidemic that swept the nation — including the small city of Middletown, population 50,000 — council member Dan Picard has floated an idea that has been called more of “a cry of frustration” than a legitimate solution.
At a council meeting last week, Picard proposed a three-strikes-style policy for people who repeatedly overdose: Too many overdoses and authorities wouldn't send an ambulance to resuscitate them.
Picard told The Washington Post that he sympathizes with anyone who has lost someone to drug abuse, but said that responding to an ever-increasing number of overdose calls threatens to bleed his city dry.
“It’s not a proposal to solve the drug problem,” Picard said this week. “My proposal is in regard to the financial survivability of our city. If we’re spending $2 million this year and $4 million next year and $6 million after that, we’re in trouble. We’re going to have to start laying off. We're going to have to raise taxes.”
The proposal also calls for the city to create a database of overdose victims who paramedics have responded to.
“We'll have that list and when we get a call, the dispatcher will ask who is the person who has overdosed,” Picard said.
“And if it's someone who has already been provided services twice, we'll advise them that we're not going to provide further services — and we will not send out an ambulance.”
Solutions, Picard told The Post, require out-of-the-box thinking.
Still, he said he has received dozens of angry emails, phone calls and Facebook messages as news of his proposal spread.
But he said his worst critics don't understand how bad the heroin problem has gotten in his community — with no sign of abating.