Mass. ambulances now carrying non-opioid pain relievers

Officials reviewed protocols and determined there was a "gap" in the list of pain medications paramedic-level ambulances were authorized to carry


By Wendall Waters
Wicked Local North

TOPSFIELD, Mass. — Paramedics responding to emergencies in Topsfield, Middleton, and Boxford now have non-opioid options for helping patients manage their pain.

Topsfield Fire Chief Jen Collins-Brown said the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) had reviewed its protocols and determined there was a "gap" in the list of pain medications paramedic-level ambulances were authorized to carry.

"The only options that we had," Collins-Brown said, "were opioid options."

In 2017, the DPH issued a new protocol requiring ambulances to carry Ibuprofen, Acetaminophen and Ketorolac (also known as Toradol), in addition to opioids. It kicked in on Jan. 1, 2018. As certified paramedic services, the Topsfield and Middleton fire departments will follow the new protocol.

"These are new for us to carry," Collins-Brown said of the non-opioids, "and they give us a whole other option for managing people's pain."

Middleton Fire Chief Tom Martinuk said. "It's a good thing because it gives people a choice."

The Boxford Fire department, however, is an emergency first responder (EFR) service. Boxford Fire Chief Brian Geiger said that, as an EFR, his department follows EMT protocols, which do not allow for the administration of pain medications beyond baby aspirin.

Collins-Brown said sometimes injuries are so significant, the patient needs the opioid.

"But, it's really a discussion that we have with the patient," she said. "There are some people that would just prefer to stay out of the opiate realm."

The DPH also created a Voluntary Non-Opioid Directive Program, under which a citizen can fill out a form specifying that he or she does not want to have opioids administered. The person can have the form added to his or her medical record through a care provider or present it to emergency personnel. However, Collins-Brown said, people can turn down the use of opioids even if they haven't filled out the form.

Copyright 2018 Wicked Local North

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