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An Ohio police department has posted to Facebook photographs of a 4-year-old boy sitting in the backseat of a car with his mother and a man overdosed in the front seats, saying the public needed to see the impact heroin is having on communities and the children of addicts.

The East Liverpool Police Department, in a posting late Thursday, said it anticipated there would be criticism of its decision to publicly release the photos, but added that “it is time that the non drug using public sees what we are now dealing with on a daily basis.”


“The poison known as heroin has taken a strong grip on many communities not just ours, the difference is we are willing to fight this problem until it’s gone and if that means we offend a few people along the way we are prepared to deal with that,” the department said.

An operator at the police department confirmed the agency posted the photos. East Liverpool is located in a corner of Ohio that borders West Virginia and Pennsylvania.

Ohio has been among the states hardest hit by the opioid epidemic. Last year, 3,050 people in the state died of unintentional drug overdoses — a record amount and a 20 percent increase from the year prior. The state has also experienced several mass overdoses recently in which hundreds of people overdosed on heroin laced with fentanyl.


As of early Friday afternoon, there were more than 2,000 comments on the posting.

Some praised the police for publishing the photo on the ground that it was important to spread public awareness of the human impact of opioid addiction. Others criticized the police department, saying it was publicly shaming the couple pictured and further stigmatizing drug users.

People were also upset that the child’s image was not blurred, complaining that an innocent victim in the case was being exploited. (STAT has blurred the image.)

The child pictured in the image was the son of the woman passed out in the front, according to police. The relationship of the man to the woman and child was not specified.

Police said they began following the car after an officer noticed it was being driven erratically. At one point, it was behind a school bus. When the bus stopped to let off children, the vehicle skidded to a stop behind it. The male driver, James Accord, told an officer he was trying to get the female passenger, Rhonda Pasek, to the hospital. The driver then fell unconscious, according to the police report. Both adults received several rounds of the opioid antidote Narcan and regained consciousness, according to the report, and then were transported to a local hospital for evaluation.

The child was taken by child services. Both adults were charged with endangering a child.

  • I think the majority of the complaints were about the un-blurred image of the child’s face. Having spent part of my career working in journalism, I know you just don’t do that. Any publication that published a picture of a child without consent of the parent is putting itself at risk of legal complications, regardless of whether the parent is a drug addict or not. I never submitted a picture of any children unless I had spoken to a parent or guardian first. That’s why the local news outlets in Ohio blurred the picture and no doubt why STAT blurred the photo as well. The police of all people should know this and at least observe some level of respect for the child.

    • It may help someone never take that first dose, who may have otherwise. It’s a terrifying image. Also, as someone who has not yet been affected by this epidemic, it does give me empathy for what the police deal with. So there’s that.

  • The increase in Poppy fields since US/NATO started protecting them in Afghanistan, is in direct proportion to the growth in Sales and also corresponding deaths, from OxyContin/Fentanyl. If anyone is trying to blame all this on illegal drugs, you are in a dream world.

  • For the idiots who don’t know what it’s like to be raised by a drug addict shut the hell up. That poor little boy was saved by the shitty act of his mother. She is a disgrace as a parent. I was raised by a crack head mother who mentally fucked me up in the head. I hope she goes to jail and is treated like shit for putting her own needs before that of her child. Those of you who play behind the ignorant card or think that woman deserves any kind of forgiveness man up. They could have killed tons of people. She deserves to rot and that little boy deserves to know what a real mother is like and that he is loved and not just a fucking welfare check.

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