Fatal drug overdoses have jumped about 40% in Pittsburgh and the surrounding area in recent years, a trend one judge hopes an unusual punishment will help reverse. In two cases this week, Judge Anthony Mariani ordered drug dealers to pay $50 to local EMS for each brick of heroin they were convicted of possessing with intent to distribute to fund naloxone or Narcan kits in the hope that they'll reverse overdoses from opiates, perhaps the very ones sold by the dealers, reports the Tribune Review. However, the men won't have to pay until they're out of prison, which will be years away. "A couple of weeks ago a man stood in front of me who overdosed on heroin twice in 48 hours and was brought back by Narcan," Mariani said of his inspiration, per WTKR. "I told him he will reimburse EMS who saved him."
Andy Buxton, sentenced to seven to 14 years in prison, must pay $2,650 to local EMS agencies, while Larry Richardson, sentenced to five to 10 years, will pay $1,250, Mariani said. "Ordering the defendant to provide funds for naloxone to the relevant agency will help to rehabilitate him and change his thinking," he added in delivering Richardson's sentence on Tuesday. A single naloxone kit costs about $75, according to Pennsylvania health officials. "The fact is that naloxone is saving lives," says a judge overseeing a court drug program. "Having it in more hands is all the better." The director of a local drug overdose task force adds he's never heard of a judge taking such an approach, but "I'm sure it could have a positive effect," he says. "Anything that will save a life is worth considering." (Read more opiates stories.)