Caught on video overdosing on bus, then an arrest

Michael Meeney was recorded on a bus using heroin and collapsing, He was revived and was arrested - in part to force him to get help, police say.
Michael Meeney was recorded on a bus using heroin and collapsing, He was revived and was arrested - in part to force him to get help, police say.
Posted: February 25, 2016

Taken by a SEPTA camera, the video is shocking.

It shows a young man, surrounded by a dozen other riders on an afternoon bus in Delaware County last week, shooting heroin into his arm.

Then he slips into a daze and collapses on the floor.

Minutes later, police and paramedics bound aboard the bus, administer the drug Narcan, and revive the passenger.

Upper Darby police released clips of the video Tuesday, an unusual step designed to highlight both the potentially devastating effects of the heroin epidemic and the lifesaving steps responders now regularly employ.

"There is a lot of value in seeing how people who are addicted will go to whatever ends to use drugs," Upper Darby Police Superintendent Michael J. Chitwood said. At "1 p.m. on a Thursday afternoon, 30 or 40 people on a bus . . . it's devastating."

The video's release also coincided with his department's newest strategy on opioid abuse: arrests. On Tuesday, police arrested Michael Meeney, the Middletown Township 25-year-old saved last week on the Route 111 bus, on heroin possession charges.

The case reflects the opioid epidemic coursing across the country. On Monday, Gov. Wolf was one of two governors at a White House briefing to discuss the surge and what states and municipalities can do about it. Pennsylvania recorded 2,400 drug overdoses in 2014, Wolf said.

Charging people for drug use could be complicated by Pennsylvania's Good Samaritan Law, passed in 2014 to prevent law enforcement from prosecuting a person who calls for help amid a drug overdose. The law is designed to grant immunity to the person who called for help or the person overdosing, as long as they cooperate with authorities.

Most overdose victims are not arrested, Chitwood said. Usually, the focus is on immediate medical treatment.

Chitwood said officers arrested Meeney because he injected the drug and passed out in a public place. Police also allegedly found four small bags of heroin in his wallet, which led to the possession charges.

Chitwood said Meeney was charged in part to force him into treatment - ideally, ordered by a judge, he said.

"OK, we saved a life, for what?" Chitwood told reporters at a news conference. "So that [he] can continue down a path of addiction?"

Chitwood said the incident began Thursday around 1, when Meeney boarded the bus as it headed toward Chadds Ford. Within minutes, he pulled out a needle and injected heroin into his arm, the video shows.

When Meeney collapsed in the aisle, other passengers called 911.

Upper Darby police and paramedics used Narcan, the FDA-approved nasal spray used to reverse the effects of opioids. It was the 58th time Upper Darby police had successfully used Narcan since December, the department said.

Meeney was treated at a Delaware County hospital, and released. Police later obtained an arrest warrant and served it on him Tuesday. After not posting bail, Meeney remained jailed Tuesday night.

Chitwood said he did not show the video just to talk about Meeney's arrest. "Hopefully, as a result, he can get help," he said.

Some law enforcement agencies across the country have begun moving away from arresting drug users, using different strategies to encourage them to seek help.

Chitwood said he and Upper Darby Mayor Tom Micozzie have been in talks to create a haven at the police station for people who voluntarily seek help for drug addiction. In theory, he said, a person who asks for help would be linked to social workers, rehabilitation centers, or counseling programs to help with treatment.

But Chitwood said he believed users often do not seek help after they are saved by Narcan. When not barred by the Good Samaritan Law, he said, Upper Darby police will arrest users after they are medically treated, in the hope that a court may order their attendance at a drug-treatment program.

"The only way a guy like this is going to get [help], he has to go through the system," Chitwood said. "He's not going voluntarily."



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