- Associated Press - Friday, January 1, 2016

CHILLICOTHE, Ohio (AP) - Officials in southern Ohio hope a new amnesty program will help curb drug overdose deaths.

The Overdose Amnesty Program offered by Ross County authorities on Thursday applies to witnesses of drug overdoses who call for help, reports the Chillicothe Gazette (https://ohne.ws/1JjaDHT).

“Heroin is not worth dying over,” said Ross County Prosecutor Matthew Schmidt. “Law enforcement officials in this county would rather see addicts get help, than get arrested. We would rather see lives saved, than lives lost.”

Emergency callers can ask for amnesty on misdemeanor drug charges, such as drug possession, possession of drug abuse instruments, permitting drug abuse and drug paraphernalia charges. Drug traffickers will not be eligible for amnesty.

“This is not for drug dealers,” Schmidt said. “You won’t be able to avoid charges”

The amnesty program will also not let people avoid parole or probation violations, bond violations or Drug Court sanctions. Schmidt said.

Drug overdoses are the leading cause of accidental deaths in the state. Ross County is among the areas with the highest rates of drug overdose deaths when accounting for population and age.

The program was established over the last few months by Schmidt’s office, the County Sheriff’s Office, the Chillicothe Police Department and other area law enforcement agencies.

So-called “Good Samaritan” laws already exist in 34 other states, including Kentucky, West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Illinois. Ohio lawmakers are considering a similar measure, currently being heard in the House Judiciary Committee.

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Information from: Chillicothe Gazette, https://www.chillicothegazette.com

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This story has been changed to correct that amnesty was announced Thursday.

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Information from: Chillicothe Gazette, https://www.chillicothegazette.com

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