Over the last couple of months, The Salem News has been covering this story about a man who overdosed on heroin. He was found at the Liberty Tree Mall shortly after his five year-old son was found wandering and someone called an ambulance. They were able to get the Naloxone Hydrochloride (Narcan) into his system on time, saving his life, and then he was charged with heroin possession and child endangerment.
You can read up on the story by clicking on this link to the most recent update.But to sum it up they dropped the possession charge in accordance with Good Samaritan laws. Since someone called an ambulance, the overdose “victim” can’t be charged with possession because he was allegedly seeking help.
This coincides with another news item that trended recently, wherein the Gloucester Police Department in Gloucester, Massachusetts declared that they will provide the Narcan free of charge, regardless of insurance or lack thereof. Furthermore, they have changed their focus from simply arresting the drug users and dealers by trying to focus on helping addicts recover from their dependency on the drug and essentially, taking the highroad in fighting the war on heroin.
Here’s my problem, or rather, my observation on something that isn’t necessarily my problem but may or may not be valid under the circumstances.
I really applaud the efforts of Gloucester PD and I don’t mean to downplay the seriousness of addiction and how tightly it can grip people. But that doesn’t mean that I am naïve to the fact that some people are just eager to exploit any little loophole that is given to them.
For example, it’s hard to get a dialogue going with some people about issues like homelessness and poverty without inspiring a knee jerk reaction from those that like to “cleanse the dead” so to speak. There’s this idea that someone who is in a certain situation can’t possibly be accountable for their actions. No one ever tries to take advantage of a benevolent policy designed to help those who really need it, right? Wrong.
The fact is that some people, not all but some people do know what they are doing. They do deliberately take advantage of services like EBT, fuel assistance, and other programs because maybe those programs aren’t as closely monitored by the people who run them. You might not think anything of giving money to a panhandler, because in your mind, you can’t conceive of that person simply being really good at playing to your expectations of a homeless person and therefore making you perfectly willing to fill their cup with your hard earned change.
How does this apply to a heroin addict?
This guy gets the charge dropped because someone called an ambulance for him. Okay, he’s seeking help in that one instance. But now there’s a legal precedent that others can exploit. Suppose I’m in possession of heroin and I know I’m in danger of being caught by either the police or maybe my dealer. I know that there’s this rule that says that if I am in danger and seek help to prevent myself from dying of overdose, I can attempt something so incredibly stupid by deliberately overdosing and thus getting a free ticket to a hospital and maybe a rehab program where I’ll be safe for a little while longer.
You may say that I am exaggerating the possible negative outcomes of this decision. But the fact is that if I can think of it, you know someone else will. I just hope that another well meaning policy designed to help people doesn’t give the less well meaning individuals who are out there any ideas.