Fighting opiate addiction is every bit as important as fighting the other diseases we encounter — STEMI, stroke, trauma, sepsis and the like.
There is a tremendous article on the JEMS website by Dr. Alex Garza and Dr. Sophia Dyer about EMS joining the fight against the opiate epidemic in a broader way than just responding to overdoses and administering Narcan.
EMS Data Can Help Stop the Opioid Epidemic
Read it, and then consider what is happening in your EMS system.
In ours, we are treating increasing numbers of patients addicted to opiates, some who get Narcan, some who don’t, some who go to the hospital, some who refuse at the scene. We see them all, but not all of them get into the system to get help. Like those scene refusals, many of those who go to the hospital, leave AMA before they get a chance to get counseling. While not all of them will desire or enter counseling, the health care system should at least be there near to the time of overdose offering help.
The fight against opiate addiction involves many players in the community. EMS needs to be at that table, sharing what information we have and asking how we can best help — through data collection to provide real time surveillance, through counseling patients who refuse transport, providing education to family members and friends on overdose scenes about where they can get Narcan for the next occurrence or where they can go to get counseling or into a treatment program, or as some cities are doing, providing Narcan to family members, prealerting EDs to arrival of opiate overdose patients so counselors can be available to provide intervention, and I am certain there are other ways we can help.
I am very excited to be attending such a meeting in Hartford this week, anxious to hear about the efforts community groups are making in the fight, and anxious to hear how we in EMS can best help.
I will report back on the meeting, and other efforts I learn about.
If you haven’t already done so, seek out education on the nature of the opiate epidemic and of the disease. The JEMS article is a great primer.