Opioids vs Economics

“If they have not completed the required amount of time before their third overdose, the emergency medical assistance will not be provided.”

I have always argued that inherent in being a conservative is the concept of personal responsibility. I feel so strongly about this that I do not believe you can actually be a constitutional conservative without holding this virtue as a core principle. Unfortunately, this means that people are solely responsible for their actions. This is where the heartlessness that the left accuses the right of comes into play.

If someone makes poor choices in life, I empathize with them. My heart and prayers go out to them. In some cases, I have even been known to reach out to them financially, as long as I can see that they are sincere about putting in the effort to pull themselves out of the situation they are in. But for the majority of those individuals, they have to accept the consequences of their actions.

We can simply not afford, as a nation, to bail everyone out of every problem they have. This is especially true when their choices are habitual. Here is where Middletown, Ohio finds itself. Ohio is suffering from an opioid epidemic that is racking the nation. Currently, Middleton is being bled dry by the financial burden drug abusers are putting on the city. The town uses a counter drug called Naloxone, which costs thirty-five dollars a dose.

However, depending on the opioid and the person who took it, they may require multiple doses of the drug. The city estimates that it will need to spend approximately $90,000 on Naloxone alone this year. That is more than twice the cost of the other medicine supplies on the ambulances combined. However, that is not the only cost involved. Each ambulance run also includes all of the operating costs, wear and tear on the vehicle, and other expensive issues. Dan Picard, a city councilman, estimated the cost to the city of each ambulance call out to be over $1000.

Last year, the city of Middleton had a total of 214 opioid overdose emergency calls between January and June. This year, it is already over 600. If the trend continues, it could result in 1200 emergency calls by the end of the year for a price tag over $1,000,000. When one includes the other associated costs, such as court costs and treatment, this figure raises to over $2,000,000. This is for a town of less than 50,000, and the money would amount to over 10% of their annual budget. There is also the financial costs involved with police calls. According to the City of Middleton State publication, “the vast majority of significant criminal activity in the City of Middleton can be directly linked to the abuse of opioids.”

Out of a fear of impending financial doom (mathematically a sure thing if the trend continues), Picard has proposed a plan to address the issue. He wants those that are provided medical aid to be required to pay back all associated costs through community service. If they have not completed the required amount of time before their third overdose, the emergency medical assistance will not be provided. Picard is well aware of the perceived evil in his plan, however, his logic is sound. If the town runs out of funding, “Not only will overdose patients be dying, accident patients will be dying, heart attack patients will be dying.”

The city fire chief, Paul Lolli, stated that should an opioid overdose call come in they are morally and legally required to respond to it, no matter how many times they have responded to the individual involved. The chief may have a point, as the city is still unsure about the legality of such a plan.

The City of Middleton does not get to print its own money as the federal government does. They have to live within the constraints of what they can afford.  Many would say it is cruel to simply let people die, regardless of the choices they have made. I can understand their view. I also understand the frustration in throwing money into a pit and getting no return on your investment.

If I get into a car accident and the city needs to send an ambulance, in theory, they will be paid by my insurance company. Granted, they will not receive the full amount back, but they will recover a portion of that money. However, as a functioning member of society, I will continue to provide back to the community in a financial capacity through the money I earn and spend, in addition to the taxes that are collected. However, when an individual ends up costing society through their own choices, how much money should society invest back into that individual.

Of course this statement could be convoluted to include the elderly or even those who are too mentally deficient to work. I suppose you could even include children in my statement above. But the key to my statement is choice. The elderly do not choose to get old, in theory, they have substantially contributed to the good of the nation and the community in which they live. Children do not choose to be too young to work or contribute directly. They are still developing. Even those that are mentally deficient do not choose to be so. Still, many people who suffer from mental handicaps still work and help provide economically for their municipalities.

My issue comes down to those who cost society more than they contribute. Through crime and/or drug abuse, these individuals destroy us in more ways than financial costs. Do I want people dying on the street? Not at all. However, should I have money taken away from my family to help the same individuals over and over again? No, I do not believe so.

I am not talking about striking down those who have made honest mistakes. I am not even against those who made dishonest mistakes, but have in fact atoned for their crimes.  We have all screwed up in life. Most deserve a chance to make amends — I am no different in this regard.

I remember when I was a young lieutenant, I had a soldier of mine go absent without leave (AWOL). When he came back, he gave me some ridiculous sob story and begged for me to help him. Even though he had been a habitual trouble maker, I bought into his excuses. When he went before the battalion commander, I was there supporting him. I told the commander that I would vouch for him and believed in his change of heart. Imagine my surprise when a week later he went AWOL again. I went in front of my battalion commander again and was ritualistically flogged for what seemed to be at least 100 hours.

The next morning, after I had cried myself to sleep the night before, my battery commander (immediate supervisor) called me into his office. He explained that I wasn’t in trouble, and that the battalion commander had ripped into me because he believed in me. He understood, however, that I needed to learn an important lesson. I cannot fix those who do not want to be fixed.

At the end of the day, hard questions need to be asked. I hate for anyone to suffer, but I am also unwilling to simply pour money down the drain for no results. Eventually, issues like this will bankrupt us. Whether it be at the city, state, or national level. All debts need to be paid. Thomas Jefferson spoke about this very fact,

“To take from one, because it is thought his own industry and that of his fathers has acquired too much, in order to spare to others, who, or whose fathers, have not exercised equal industry and skill, is to violate arbitrarily the first principle of association, the guarantee to everyone the free exercise of his industry and the fruits acquired by it.”

Matthew Wadler

Matthew Wadler is a Senior OpsLens Contributor and U.S. Army veteran. Matt served in the Army for 20 years as both enlisted and officer before retiring. His service includes time as Military Police, Field Artillery, Adjutant General, and Recruiting. His deployments include Somalia and two tours to Afghanistan. His formal education includes a master’s degree in HR Management. He is a strong supporter of the constitution and advocate for the military and veteran communities. Follow Matthew on Twitter @MatthewWadler.

Join the conversation!

We have no tolerance for comments containing violence, racism, vulgarity, profanity, all caps, or discourteous behavior. Thank you for partnering with us to maintain a courteous and useful public environment where we can engage in reasonable discourse.