A physically disabled person who reportedly overdosed on heroin was found guilty of inducing panic in Washington Court House.
Melinda Thompson, 56, appeared in the Washington C.H. Municipal Court Thursday and plead no contest to a charge of inducing panic.
Thompson is one of more than a dozen people in Washington Court House charged with inducing panic, a first-degree misdemeanor, after reportedly suffering a drug overdose. Officers at the Washington Court House Police Department began citing people with inducing panic in February for suspected overdoses.
Prior to that, charges had not been filed on overdose survivors for inducing panic. No official policy is in place to charge overdose survivors with inducing panic, according to chief of police Brian Hottinger, but is being done in a way “to keep the drug users accountable, it’s another avenue to get them into the system and get them the help or treatment that they need.”
Thompson plead no contest to the charge, a plea that admitted all of the elements of the case and left it up to the court to decide whether or not she was guilty of the charge.
Brent T. Marshall presided as acting Washington C.H. Municipal Court judge over the case. Marshall found Thompson guilty of the charge.
Thompson’s attorney, Susan Wollscheid, said they had reached an agreement for sentencing in the case and proposed to the court that Thompson be placed into the diversion program. The diversion agreement was approved by the court.
This agreement stipulates that Thompson will complete counseling, undergo random drug testing, complete 20 hours of community service and pay all court costs within 90 days. If she completes the terms of her diversion program, the case against her will be dismissed when she goes back to court in the matter July 13.
The court fined Thompson $120 in criminal costs, $50 for the diversion program and $25 for a public defender fee.
After her court hearing, Thompson said she was at her Forest Street home Feb. 26 when she used heroin and began experiencing the symptoms of a drug overdose.
She explained that she has a disability and chronic problems with her back, knees, breathing and carpal tunnel and was out of her regular medication. She said she used the heroin after someone “said it was like my medicine and would take my pain away.”
Thompson said emergency medical technicians were called to her house when she overdosed.
“I had already woke up. There was no Narcan that woke me up. When I went into the ambulance the EMT handed me Narcan and told me to squirt it up my nose,” Thompson said.
She was transported to the hospital, where she said the charge for inducing panic was handed to her.
“I don’t think I should have been charged for calling for help,” Thompson said.
When asked why she thinks people in the community are using heroin and opioids, Thompson said, “This town is full of drugs.”
She said that for the younger population they just try it to do it. “As for older people, I think it helps their pain, like morphine,” said Thompson.
Ashley may be reached by calling her at (740) 313-0355 or by searching Twitter @ashbunton