Let them die.

That was the jarring message from Middletown City Councilman Dan Picard.

A day before Middletown's council meeting on June 20, City Manager Doug Adkins attended a local heroin summit. He told people there the city was on pace to spend $100,000 on Narcan, a medicine that can block the effects of opioids and is often used by first responders to reverse an overdose.

Adkins said the city had already responded to 100 more overdose runs by June than it did in all of 2016. In addition, he said there had been 51 overdose deaths in the city as of June 17.

Last year, there were 74, he said.

Picard read these harrowing statistics in a newspaper article the day of council's meeting. Then, Adkins presented more of the same that night.

Picard, swinging his hands in the air, eventually asked the city manager:

"Is there a law that says we have to go out?"

He was talking about responding to overdoses.

The question sat there for several seconds without a reply. It was a stunning question, underscoring the depth of the heroin epidemic and mounting frustration as it continues to get worse.

After sitting silently, Adkins moved his head back and cleared his throat.

"If we want to get out of the business, we have the right to get out of the business," he said, suggesting the city could, for example, privatize emergency medical services.

Picard asked about the possibility of not responding to addicts who repeatedly overdose.

"We need to make a decision," he said in the meeting. "Because, frankly, I'm to the point of we need to make a decision that perhaps we don't."

Adkins told The Cincinnati Enquirer he has asked the city's law department to analyze whether it is legal to refuse to dispatch for an overdose.

But before the next question, the city manager interrupted.

"This isn't going to go anywhere," he said, sounding exasperated at the national attention this has received. "Even if it was, I'm not sure I would want to face the lawsuits that could come from it."

Picard, whose council term expires at the end of the year, is not seeking re-election. He's served on council for almost eight years.

"During the last four or five days, life has not been good," he said, discussing the overwhelmingly negative response to his comments.

Look at his Facebook page. Under a photo announcing his recent marriage is a string of comments lambasting him.

"Daniel You are a disgrace to humanity!" said one.

"Have fun in hell a*****!" read another.

"It costs $0.00 to be a decent human being," one post said.

On Tuesday, Picard sounded like a man who didn't realize the implication of his words. He stood by his comments in an interview with The Enquirer, but also reshaped them.

"My goal was not to stop treating overdoses, it was to solve a financial problem — not to stop the drug problem," Picard said. "If we dispatch, then we have to treat. I have no problem with that."

Follow Keith BieryGolick on Twitter: @KBieryGolick