Judge Orders Drug Dealers to Pay for Naloxone Kits

By Zachary Siegel 07/26/16

The naloxone fine is a condition of the defendants' probation which they do not have to start paying until they have been released.

Judge Orders Drug Dealers to Pay for Naloxone Kits
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People caught selling heroin and other opiates in Western Pennsylvania will now have to foot the bill for naloxone kits. For every brick of heroin found in one’s possession, $50 (roughly the price of a single kit) will be added to their charge as a fine, to be paid after they serve their sentence. 

"Ordering the defendant to provide funds for naloxone to the relevant agency will help to rehabilitate him and change his thinking," Judge Anthony Mariani of Allegheny County said on July 19 while sentencing a man on two felony counts of possession with intent to deliver. On top of serving five to 10 years in prison, the man will have to pay a fine of $1,250 for the 25 bricks of heroin found in his possession. 

This is the second time Judge Mariani added the naloxone fine to a case in the past week. Another man caught in possession of over 50 bricks of heroin was ordered to pay a total of $2,650 to medical service agencies near where the heroin was being distributed. All of that money will pay for naloxone kits. 

Brian Kircher, executive director of Ross/West View emergency medical services in Pittsburgh, told CNN that the money from drug dealers would make up for costs associated with reversing overdoses. But Kircher wasn't keen on the idea of allowing individuals to pay the fees after serving their sentence. 

Others have said it is a novel approach and worth considering, simply for the fact that the more naloxone being distributed, the more lives can be saved. 

"In the '70s you didn't see as much heroin and opioid-type narcotics as frequently as you do today,” Kircher told CNN. “Some of that is the availability and the changes in the way we treat pain." Rust Belt states like Pennsylvania have been hit particularly hard by the heroin crisis in the last decade, prompting people to implement new tactics to save lives. 

In 2014, Allegheny County—over which Judge Mariani presides—was ranked 8th in Pennsylvania for drug-related deaths, the majority of which were heroin-related, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration. Between 2014 and 2015, fatal drug overdoses increased by 37%, totaling to 422 deaths last year, according to the same DEA report. 

Judge Mariani cites these alarming figures as the reason for imposing the naloxone fine. 

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Zachary Siegel is a freelance journalist specializing in science, health and drug policy. His reporting has also appeared in Slate, The Daily Beast, Salon, Huffington Post, among others. He writes often about addiction, sometimes drawing from his own experience. You can find out more about Zachary on Linkedin or follow him on Twitter.