A Facebook page belonging to the city of East Liverpool, Ohio, shared two grim photos it said it hoped would “show the other side” of the opioid crisis.
The photos feature an unconscious man and woman who appear to have suffered overdoses, while the woman’s 4-year-old son sits in the backseat of their car.
“We feel it necessary to show the other side of this horrible drug. We feel we need to be a voice for the children caught up in this horrible mess,” the city wrote on Facebook.
The uncommon decision to publish uncensored photos on social media was made in conjunction with the mayor’s office, police chief, and the city’s law director, public service and safety director Brian Allen confirmed with Business Insider.
“We are well aware that some may be offended by these images and for that we are truly sorry, but it is time that the non drug using public sees what we are now dealing with on a daily basis,” the city’s Facebook post read.
East Liverpool, a city of approximately 11,000, sees almost daily overdose incidents and staffs only 11 police officers to respond, Allen said. Sometimes just one officer is on duty.
Opioid-related drug overdoses have skyrocketed in recent years, particularly in Ohio, as Business Insider’s Harrison Jacobs has previously reported. Over a two-day period in August, Cincinnati police reported more than 60 overdose cases throughout the city. One officer called it “complete madness.”
According to the incident report the city shared on Facebook, East Liverpool officers first spotted the couple when their vehicle began “weaving back and forth” in the lane they were driving in.
When the vehicle stopped and police approached, the driver said he had been taking his passenger to the hospital, according to the report. Police described the woman as “completely unconscious.”
After the man, too, went unconscious, paramedics arrived and administered several rounds of the drug Narcan, which reverses opioid overdoses, according to the report. Police said they found “a small amount of a pink powdery substance” in the car, which the city’s post suggests was heroin.
The two, identified as James Acord and Rhonda Pasek, were arrested Wednesday on charges of child endangerment, according to the incident report.
The goal in publishing the photos, Allen explained, was to educate residents about the now-regular overdoses occurring within the city. The incident had already garnered local media attention, and news outlets were filing public records requests for the photos, which officially became public record after Acord pleaded guilty in court on Thursday, Allen said.
Allen said police couldn’t legally alter photos that are public record but added city officials did consider censoring the images before they were published on social media. Everyone, however, agreed it “wouldn’t have told the same story,” he said.