An online petition launched by a Springfield resident to change a law that grants immunity to people who have overdosed on opioids is nearing the 10,000 signature mark that would land it on Springfield Mayor Warren Copeland’s desk.
The Change.org petition, which was launched in August by Springfield resident Justin Harvey, asks city leaders to criminally charge individuals who suffer from drug overdoses and receive medical attention.
Presently those people are protected by Ohio’s 9-1-1 Good Samaritan law, which prevents police from immediately pressing charges in the cases where they try to get help. If they seek treatment within 30 days and provide proof of it, drug charges cannot be brought against them. The law doesn’t apply to people who have overdosed three or more times.
Clark County Prosecutor Andy Wilson said the the law, which was signed by Gov. John Kasich in September 2016 and took effect in March of this year, doesn’t take into account what’s going on in communities.
“The people in Columbus probably had good intentions but they’re just not in touch with what’s going on in the streets,” Wilson said. “The reality is that the only way that these opiate abusers get treatment is through court intervention, through the fear of going to jail and having a court make them go.”
Harvey originally launched the petition because he saw a neighbor overdose, but saw him back in his home again later that same evening. When he launched the petition back in August, it garnered more than 6,000 signatures in just five days.
As of Nov. 24, the petition had nearly 9,800 signatures. Harvey said once the number reaches 10,000, he intends to turn it in to Springfield City Hall.
“I did it mainly to raise the discussion,” Harvey said. “Something has to be changed, whether it’s jail time or losing their license. Treatment would be the best option but that costs somewhere.”
Copeland said it’s unclear if the city has the capability to bypass state law. He said he will rely on local experts to educate him on the issue, but he has no final opinion on how things could turn out.
“I understand the motivation and I agree that we want to get as many as possible into treatment, instead of constantly saving them from death,” Copeland said. “I just don’t know what the best way to do that is.”
The opioid epidemic doesn’t seem to be discussed in Springfield like it needs to be, Harvey said.
“I knew it would offend some people and I knew some people would agree, but unless you talk about stuff, it doesn’t change,” he said.
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