Behind the photo: How heroin took over an Ohio town

East Liverpool, Ohio – The photo that took home the depth of America opioid crises – two adults overdose lying on the front of a car, while a little boy in a shirt dinosaur watched from the back – not to scandalize authorities Rust Belt city they vanished. They see something like almost every day.

unconscious addicts are so often dumped in the hospital parking administrators developed a special alert system to treat them. Paramedics have started overdose victims gutter, from the parking lot of Walmart, and from living rooms across the city. It has become a routine that children see an unconscious father shook to life with a dose of narcan.

“Do you know how many houses get into that children are sitting on the couch watching us?” Christine Lerussi paramedic said.

Liverpool Ohio
Liverpool Middle Police recorded this image of adults and overdose on the Facebook page of the city child. The child’s face was blurred by STAT.

The photo has stirred emotions worldwide since police posted it on Facebook last week. the attention of the Ohio Governor John Kasich was called, too: officials have visited the state substance abuse East Liverpool to discuss the problem. The governor’s office said STAT is increasing the supply of narcan communities in that part of the state and raising alarms about the dangers of fentanyl.

However, the problem is outpacing overdose them.

Desperation here echoes throughout the country. But the crisis is particularly opioid acute in Ohio . Last year, a record 3,050 people died in the state of drug overdose. Potent opioid overdoses fentanyl more than doubled, to 1,155.

Spend a few days in East Liverpool and is easy to see why. Drug dealers outside the herd State to the desolate streets, selling the maximum powerful for $ 10 or $ 15 each. For too many residents, there is little more: There are no jobs. No recreation. Without treatment of long-term addiction.

The city responded to eight overdose, and a suspected drug-related death in the week after the photo was published. Some paramedics recently doubled the number of doses that lead to revive Narcan addicts brink of death. “We are not back to the garage to replace” Lerussi said. “You get until the last dose and is panicking trying to find it.”

As familiar as in the case of overdose, city leaders still the power of photography is recognized. They spent hours debating what to do with it.

His decision to put Facebook was, in a way, a cry for help.

was also a strategic move. Police saw the photo as irrefutable that adults passed out in the front of the test car had endangered the child in the back – and should never regain custody. The publication of the image online, STAT told, was a way to protect the child in the dinosaur shirt.

“We knew it was going to save this child,” said Brian Allen, director of public security in East Liverpool.

He added: “. We expected that, anyway”

East Liverpool
East Liverpool police officer Fred Flati, a veteran of 24 years of the department, took the now-viral photograph.

moments before the photo, a narrow ruling

The Ford Explorer was skidding.

It was 15:11 on a sunny Wednesday in September.

A school bus made its way along the Avenue St. Clair, stopping occasionally to keep out children. The Ford Explorer was right behind him, weaving erratically. Now, suddenly, the driver hit the brakes. The SUV slid across the pavement – narrowly missing the bus. It was drifting at an angle to Prospect Street and stopped near where the children had landed, a few steps of a church.

By chance, Officer Kevin Thompson had been driving behind the truck, as he prepared to start his afternoon shift. He had seen the whole thing. When he approached the driver’s window, he saw a middle-aged man with a shirt and black shorts denim driving. His head sways back and forth. His pupils were pinpricks. His speech was almost unintelligible. Beside him in the passenger seat, a blond woman in a tank top appeared unconscious.

The man muttered something about your driving to the hospital. He reached the shifter.

But the officer bowed, turned off the engine, and grabbed the keys. It was then that he has the child in the back seat.

At that time, the driver, later identified as 47-year-old James Lee Acord, “were completely unconscious,” Thompson wrote in the affidavit. The woman, 50 years old, Rhonda Pasek, grandmother and legal guardian of the child, was “turning blue.” Authorities found a substance in powder pink in the SUV suspect was heroin mixed with fentanyl. toxicology results are still pending.

Thompson called an ambulance and backup. As expected, he wrote, tried to keep the airway open Pasek.

Backup arrived, including paramedics to administer narcan – Fred and Official Flati, armed with a Nikon camera. Ohio law requires murder charges against drug traffickers if one of their customers dies from an overdose. Thus overdose victims usually photographed.

Looking through the lens, Flati said, his thoughts focused on the child in the back seat.

“Never said a word,” Flati, a veteran of 24 years of strength and the same father said. “Today I have not heard his voice.”

But Flati said the boy did not have to say anything. “Just seeing that blank expression, no emotion on her face – that spoke for itself,” he said, adding that he agreed with the decision to publish the photo. “As soon as I saw it I thought, ‘How are these two … will dispute the charges of endangering children in this picture?'”

He added: “. What a shame”

East Liverpool
East Liverpool, Ohio, sits on the edge of the Ohio River.

A city full of drugs

How Morando Todd sees it, shame is powerless against opiate addiction .

A nurse administrator, Morando the emergency department Hospital East Liverpool city runs. The hospital has placed a stretcher and wheelchair through the door and instructed personnel triage hit an alarm when another victim of an overdose are dumped in the parking lot. Nurses are supposed to jump out and push the patient to one of the wards of acute care to administer life-saving treatment.

If it works, he said, his staff tells the patient how close they were to death, and offer them treatment.

But most of the time, is still insufficient, Morando said.

He has seen people overdose, revive, then it appears again the next day, blue in the face and overdosing again. He said a patient was restored three days.

“When they are watching their children, and their children are not enough to make them stop, it really can be said about them?” Morando said.

East Liverpool is in this country where steel nexus Ohio, West Virginia and Pennsylvania meet. The local mill, steel pot, pottery closed in 1982. once famous city also closed, leaving only a museum on the edge of the city. A population that was as high as 26,000 in 1970 is now at 11,000. About a third of residents live in poverty.

Beyond the flashing lights of emergency vehicles, there is little to do or see in East Liverpool. Last week, the biggest attraction was a small sign of progress – demolition of an old commercial building is becoming apartments. Some people watched from lawn chairs; others smoked and talked.

But above all, sidewalks and storefronts on West Fifth Street were empty.

East Liverpool
A team working on a demolition site of a historic building in East Liverpool.

The only treatment for patients hospitalized in the city is a three-day program at the hospital. Administrators said that participation in the program increased 80 percent in 2016 over the previous year. However, three days of treatment is not much. Unless they can find a bed of rare recovery elsewhere in the county, addicts end up in familiar streets, easy access to its distributors, as they are fighting fierce withdrawal pains.

The state has tried to attack the crisis of opiates by limiting the number of doctors may prescribe painkillers. However, the illegal sale of heroin fentanyl and others synthetic they are thriving.

Distributors take advantage of cities like East Liverpool, because the demand is so high, they can sell at a premium. You can get $ 160 per gram of a drug that sold for only $ 100 at places like Cleveland or Detroit, police said.

Outside the distributors city police even bother to fight for territories in East Liverpool, he said. There are plenty of customers for everyone. “There is so much money involved,” said Brian McLaughlin, director of the working group of drugs Columbiana County. And there is a high risk that they will be captured 17 police officers in East Liverpool are so busy with overdoses and crimes against small health, it is difficult to find the time and resources to pursue dealers, security officials said public


Overdoses come in batches. Two or three days can go by without calls. Next, three or four will come on the same day.

“Friday the same person twice overdose,” said Police Chief John Lane. “Before officers arrived there first, got up and ran through the woods, so do not get it. Later that night, an overdose again. It just goes on and on and on.”

East Liverpool
Director East Liverpool Public Safety Brian Allen says the city determined that it could not blur the child’s face in the photo, because Ohio law prohibits officials alteration public records.

was in this context that officials saw the photo of unconscious adults and solemn child in the back of the Ford Explorer.

The image captured not only a crime in a city. Opioid whole crisis was captured. Adults turning blue. The child watching. The family soon to be torn .

“I do not think people realize how bad it is,” said Police Chief John Lane. But he knew that the photo could show them.

Local media had been calling for the photo from shortly after he was taken. Allen, the director of public safety, said he knew he had to be released, but the city wanted to control when and how. The central question: Whether to put it on Facebook. Allen said the department regularly publishes photos of drug busts, but this was different.

“I do not think people realize how bad it is.”

police chief of East Liverpool John Lane,

Ohio law prohibits officials from the alteration of public records, so could not blur the faces of the two adults who so clearly need treatment. Nor could they erase the face of little boy in dinosaur shirt.

“We traffickers shame, but we do not consumers of drugs shame,” Allen said. “And that was the discussion we had. Should we do this?”

Finally, he said, officials concluded that publication of the image may help the child custody Pasek out and make sure that “never going back there again.”

also he said he wanted the picture to show how desperate problem of the city had become. Allen said state cuts have been removed from $ 1 million to $ 16 million annual budget of the city. He has no money to add more officers. You can not create a comprehensive program of education K-12 drugs in schools. More stretchers for long-term treatments are out of the question.

“Governor Kasich has built a $ 2 trillion rainy day on the backs of the small towns in this state,” Allen said. “You built an emergency fund? There are storm in East Liverpool”.

The governor’s office sent a delegation to the city last week to listen to local concerns. Under Kasich, Ohio has instituted a series of measures to respond to the crisis, including legislation to close “mill pill” pain clinics, additional funds to help first responders buy naloxone, and a campaign of media to increase awareness of fentanyl in counties with high mortality rates.

But the governor refused requests for an interview about the problem in East Liverpool, and his administration did not elaborate on his plans to help the city.

Meanwhile, the photo has gained more attention to East Liverpool police could have imagined.

news agencies around the world have published, including STAT. He shot around social networks. East Liverpool city officials have been bombarded with letters and emails. Some have been supportive. Other explosion of the department’s decision to post a picture so marked with faces so clearly visible.

These letters have been vague death threats to agents. But there have been suggestions of votes from residents who want to support their police. “We received more phone calls and advice now,” Allen said. “People are responding.”

photo The boy is now in the custody of relatives in another state. The two adults who live across the border in the state of West Virginia, are both behind bars.

Last Thursday, Pasek pleaded no contest to child endangerment and disorderly conduct. He received six months in jail.

Television cameras outside City Hall during the hearing drew the attention of Kim Rawson, who lives near Wellsville. She knows too well opioid crisis. He hits its neighbors. His friends. But they just relapse.

“It was the first time he had used since Memorial Day,” Rawson said through tears. “They had to give five doses of narcan.”

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