Michigan announces statewide EMS Naloxone Leave Behind Program
EMS responses for opioid overdoses in Michigan were 22% higher from April to July this year compared with the same time period last year, according to state health department data
Justin P. Hicks
MLive.com, Walker, Mich.
LANSING, Mich. — Michigan is launching a new program to provide more overdose-reversal kits to people at the scenes of non-fatal opioid overdoses in an effort to combat the recent rise in overdose fatalities.
On Monday, Aug. 31, the Department of Health and Human Services announced its EMS Naloxone Leave Behind Program, a partnership with emergency medical services providers that will hand out extra naloxone kits. Each kit comes with the medication to reverse opioid overdoses, and instructions for use.
The program will allow first-responders to leave naloxone kits with the patient, family and friends, or bystanders at the scene of a non-fatal overdose. Survivors are at high risk for repeated overdoses, so providing naloxone to these individuals and their loved ones is particularly important.
“Far too many Michiganders die from opioid overdoses and tragically the opioid crisis has only gotten worse during the pandemic,” said Robert Gordon, MDHHS director, in a prepared statement. “That’s why MDHHS is proud to work with the state’s EMS providers to give Michigan families another resource to prevent overdose deaths. It is more urgent than ever that we take decisive action to prevent overdose deaths and dismantle the stigma around addiction.”
In 2018, overdoses killed 2,599 Michiganders. Nearly 80 percent of those deaths involved opioids.
This year, county health departments around the state have reported increases in opioid-related deaths as the stress and anxiety related to coronavirus and coinciding economic recession have placed added pressures on individuals. A spokesperson for MDHHS said it was too soon to look at statewide overdose data for 2020, but they noted a “deeply concerning trend” in the rising number of 911 calls related to opioid use during the pandemic.
From April through July 2020, EMS responses for opioid overdose in Michigan were 22% higher than the same period in 2019, according to statewide data compiled by MDHHS. Responses increased in all regions of the state and in every age demographic except for those aged 65 and older.
The state announced its new naloxone program on Monday in recognition of Overdose Awareness Day -- a day meant to “memorialize the individuals whose lives have been lost to an overdose, and marks an occasion to offer support to the family, friends and communities impacted by this epidemic,” according to MDHHS.
Naloxone, commonly known by the brand names Narcan and Evzio, has been used by EMS providers to treat overdoses for more than 30 years. The nasal spray allows an individual experiencing an opioid overdose to breathe again, and does not have negative effects if opioids are absent.
“Michigan’s EMS providers are standing by 24/7 to treat medical emergencies including helping prevent overdose deaths,” said Jack Fisher, Michigan Association of Ambulance Services (MAAS) president and executive director of Medic 1 Ambulance in Berrien County.
“We look forward to having this extra resource to combat the serious overdose problem in our state, but still urge Michiganders to call 911 in all emergencies, even if naloxone has already been administered.”
Medical Control Authorities, which act as local EMS governing boards, will determine whether to adopt the new leave-behind program, according to state officials. EMS agencies will be able to order naloxone kits as needed from the state’s online portal where community organizations can request free naloxone.
The state health department has $4.98 million in funding for the naloxone portal for the current fiscal year, which is roughly enough for 66,396 kits, according to MDHHS. The funding is from the State Opioid Response grant, a federal grant that funds much of the state’s opioid crisis response work.
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