“EMS sits at the epicenter of the opioid epidemic,” said Rob Lawrence, Richmond (Va.) Ambulance Authority, during an EMS leaders panel at the recent Pinnacle EMS Conference in Boca Raton, Fla.
The panel was about the EMS role beyond responding to an opioid overdose and administering naloxone. Here are five ways EMS is essential to solving the opioid crisis.
#1 EMS Collects & Shares Data
EMS data is important to understanding the local impact of opioids and tracking the effectiveness of interventions.
Naloxone administration data from electronic patient care reporting systems (ePCRs) gives near real-time information on overdose locations, which can help inform law enforcement, public health, mental health and other harm-reduction efforts.
#2 EMS Collaborates on Intervention
EMS leaders are important parties to community interventions and programs. Collaboration can decrease overdose-related deaths and the suffering related to addiction.
Programs like the Community Opioid Outreach Program is a collaboration of Trinity EMS with the Lowell Fire Department, Lowell Police Department, Lowell House and the District Attorney of Middlesex County, Mass., and others.
#3 EMS Serves as Recovery Partners
Paramedics can be trained to be recovery coaches for high-utilizers, those who had articulated an interest and willingness for addiction treatment. EMTs and paramedics can also refer addicts to rehab and recovery resources.
Some EMS agencies are following up with patients the day after an overdose to guide patients toward help.
#4 EMS Partners to Pursue Grants
EMS agencies are partnering with public health agencies to apply for federal, state and foundation grant funding to purchase and distribute naloxone, as well as provide training.
#5 EMS Educates for Opioid Use Prevention
EMS participates in prevention programs like the STOP Heroin campaign, an emotional and educational video presentation for middle school and high school students. Prevention programs provide a constant presence in the community effect behavior change — EMS involvement with media, schools, civic groups and elected officials helps drive that education.