Ohio Police Release Photos Of Couple Who Overdosed In Car With Child
KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:
Police in the city of East Liverpool, Ohio, see the reality of this country's opioid crisis every day. At the end of last week, the city decided to show the world what that looks like.
AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:
It published two photos on its Facebook page of a man and a woman who had overdosed in a car. Their eyes are closed. They're slumped over with their heads back. Their mouths are open. The woman's skin looks blue. It's a shocking image made even more so by the fact that in the backseat, there's a little boy in a dinosaur shirt fully awake, and he's just 4 years old.
Needless to say, the photos have gone viral. John Lane is the police chief in East Liverpool. Welcome to the program, Chief Lane.
CHIEF JOHN LANE: Thank you.
CORNISH: Tell us about the discussions that went into the decision to publish these photos.
LANE: Well, we knew the photos would be shocking, and we discussed it. We had to clear it through the prosecutor upstairs. We knew that it was basically needed. We need help. We're strapped with resources as far as trying to handle this kind of thing, and I don't think the public is aware of the problem as far as how this affects not only the person that's addicted but how it affects the family and everyone around them.
You know, the picture says it all right there with that little kid. He's completely helpless. That's his grandmother there. That's not his mother. That's his grandmother. And she has custody of him, and you see him sitting there, no emotion on his face. And that was the way he was the entire time.
CORNISH: The little boy in that photo - some media organizations have blurred his face out of the image, and the original post on the City of East Liverpool's Facebook page did not. Was there any discussion about protecting his privacy?
LANE: We thought about that, but you know, within a month, no one's even going to remember what he looked like, and in 10 years, no one's even going to know that's who that was. So we decided it was even in his best interest. This will get him the help he needs. He needs removed from the environment that he's in, and he needs put into a safe, loving environment.
CORNISH: To your mind, is this about shaming the guardians of this child? Is it about shaming them or shaming the public for not doing more about this epidemic?
LANE: I don't think it's about shaming at all. I think it's just to make people aware of - this is how bad this drug is. What grandmother willingly puts their 4-year-old grandson into a car knowing they're going to take this drug and possibly OD like they did? They're going downhill. They're behind a bus. The officer's on his way to work. He's not in a cruiser. He sees them driving erratically. They stop behind the bus. And then the car doesn't move, so the officer gets out and realizes there's an issue. He puts it in park, takes the keys from the ignition.
This guy tried to pull away, could have very easily ran over the children there, get a one off the hill there into a house or went over and killed himself, the grandmother and the child. I mean this could have been any number of different horrible things that could have happened.
CORNISH: But you said what grandmother would do this - I mean one addicted to opioids - right?
LANE: Yeah, yeah, that's...
CORNISH: I mean this is somebody suffering an addiction.
LANE: That's the power of this addiction. It's that strong where there's no concern for anyone else's health or safety or anything, just about getting that next high.
CORNISH: Both of the people in this image, the adults, were revived and I assume have been charged. What drugs were they charged with abusing? What are the charges here?
LANE: We don't know. We have an assumption of what those drugs are going to be, but we have to send that away. She had a pink substance on the seat between her legs, and that's what's going to be what they used. It has to be sent to a lab and be tested, and we believe it will be, you know, possibly Carfentanil. And he was charged with endangering children and then a few traffic offenses. When he went to court, he pled guilty to the charges, and he was sentenced to 360 days.
That's part of the issue here, too, is you got an obvious person who has an addiction. If you could have some sort of treatment there while he's in jail so when he comes out he's not going right back to this, there would be some way to work and try to get off of this addiction.
CORNISH: Is treatment available if he wanted that?
LANE: Not here, no. We don't have any resources, and we don't have a place. Even if somebody comes down here to the station, knocks on the door and asks for help, where do we send them? We have nothing here in our county.
CORNISH: East Liverpool's a city of about 11,000. It's near Ohio's border with Pennsylvania and West Virginia. And this is an area where there are some of the highest overdose rates in the country. Can you talk about what you mean when you say you need help? What would you like to see?
LANE: Well, we need resources is what it basically boils down to. And we have an understaffed police department, and we're constantly chasing one overdose after another. We had a half dozen over the weekend. One person passed away. And it's definitely - the resources are needed to go into the schools and teach from kindergarten up.
They should be pounding into these kids' heads about what can happen, how you become addicted, what happens once you become addicted and how you become one of these addicts that you see on TV or in the arrests and what you can do to keep yourself from getting there.
CORNISH: You talked about resources. What have you heard from, say, the state or your local congressman, I mean people who can take action here?
LANE: I have heard nothing. And in our little community here, we need it. We don't have the resources to deal with this and deal with it correctly. You know, you have all kind of people saying what you should do. Well, I don't - I can't afford to do what I need to do. I can barely cover the street as it is, let along getting in the schools and teaching.
We need to be bringing some of these people in that are beating this addiction and talk about how they got addicted and how hard it was; I mean explain to these kids. Let them have the opportunity to hear what the dealing is and how they have to try to stay away from it.
CORNISH: John Lane is police chief in East Liverpool, Ohio. Thank you for speaking with us.
LANE: Thank you.
CORNISH: And the young boy in that photo has been placed with a relative out-of-state.
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