Pinnacle: How Is Your Agency Fighting the Opioid Crisis?
"It's a hard fact that EMS sits in the epicenter of the opioid epidemic," said Rob Lawrence, Chief Operating Officer of Richmond Ambulance Authority (RAA), at the Pinnacle EMS conference in Boca Raton, Florida.
Lawrence, along with three other panelists, Jon Kelley, Dave Lewis, and Jamie Pianka, spoke on the harsh reality of the opioid epidemic that's plaguing the nation and how their respective agencies have gone about mitigating its impact on their communities.
Lawrence explained that while state labs are running three months behind in testing for fentanyl and carfentanil from confiscated substances, EMS personnel are able to determine the severity of local opioid abuse based on the amount of naloxone they have to deliver to resuscitate overdose patients. In response to the epidemic, RAA created Project REVIVE, which offers professionals one hour of training on overdose treatment as well as a Narcan prescription and NAD equipment.
Jon Kelley, Director of Communications and IT at Trinity Emergency Medical Service, initiated Project Care, a therapy program for children 18 and under who have lost parents or siblings to drug overdoses. A representative from the Division of Children's Services is sent to the home of the child within 24 hours of the death of their family member to offer various forms of therapy to successfully heal from the trauma of their situation. The representatives regularly follow up with the children one-on-one to ensure they are making healthy improvements in their progress.
David Lewis, Assistant Chief at St. Charles County Ambulance District, said that as first responders, "We are running ground zero of the opioid epidemic. We're all in this together." SCCAD shares data on Narcan usage and overdose trends in different demographics with the county's MIH team and their public health agency so they can strategize possible solutions to the epidemic. SCCAD also works with FirstWatch, which sends overdose alerts to their MIH team as they occur so they know when to provide patients consent for referral forms.
Jamie Pianka, Chief Operating Officer of Pro EMS, discussed how his agency focuses on solutions that are centered around real data. Pro EMS has been submitting data on a regular basis to FirstWatch since 2009, including information on overdoses, "hot zones," and underaged drinking for public health epidemiologists to assess. This information helps target preventative measures for those who are at risk of addiction.
These four agencies are being proactive in their approach to developing measures to combat the opioid crisis, because overdose patients are not "addicts," they're people. What is your agency doing to help your people?