Tenn. EMS agency to pilot substance abuse outreach program

Rutherford County EMS providers will provide overdose survivors and their families with naloxone, education and other resources


By Laura French

RUTHERFORD COUNTY, Tenn. — A Tennessee county EMS agency will pilot a new state substance abuse outreach program. 

Rutherford County EMS will be the first in the state to participate in the TN Save a Life-First Responder program, a branch of the wider TN Save a Life program that focuses on harm reduction, reducing stigma and directing resources to areas seeing increasing overdose rates, according to a Rutherford County news release.

Rutherford County EMS members are receiving training for a pilot program focused on outreach to overdose patients, harm reduction and reducing stigma. (Photo/Rutherford County, Tennessee)
Rutherford County EMS members are receiving training for a pilot program focused on outreach to overdose patients, harm reduction and reducing stigma. (Photo/Rutherford County, Tennessee)

Through the program, EMS providers who treat overdose patients will provide the patient and their family or friends with naloxone and instruction on how to administer it, education about the signs and symptoms of overdoses and withdrawal and a list of specific resources for treatment. 

Paramedic Joshua Crews, the outreach coordinator for the Prevention Coalition for Success, said the most important thing providers will share with patients is a kind and positive attitude. 

"Attitude is everything. If you show that you actually care, the person is more likely to seek or accept treatment," Crews said in a statement. 

Crews said although some may see the program as enabling drug use, the focus on harm reduction and improving patients' quality of life is about "giving them a chance, instead of giving up on them."

Crews is providing training for Rutherford County EMS members as part of the pilot program. He added that changing the stigma about substance abuse is also an important part of the program.

"Life can happen to anyone. I've seen police officers, paramedics, judges and others fall victim to drug use. Sometimes all it takes is one bad day," Crews stated. 

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