Opioid overdose epidemic: How a Wis. fire department is collaborating with law enforcement

EMS leaders at Pinnacle conference learn an innovative and collaborative approach between law enforcement and EMS to the opioid overdose epidemic


SAN ANTONIO ― The epidemic of opioid addiction, accidental overdose deaths and how the epidemic has manifested in the suburbs north of Milwaukee was described in a session at the Pinnacle EMS conference.

Chief Robert Whitaker, North Shore Fire/Rescue (Wis.), discussed the implementation of a regional approach between law enforcement and EMS to monitor opiate overdoses. In response to the epidemic EMS has multiple roles ― expansion of the use of naloxone, educating the public to recognize opioid overdose, providing addiction treatment resources and assisting law enforcement.

For EMS to become an effective partner to law enforcement requires sharing of recent or real-time data and accessing resources in the community, like public health, to help patients get to the right resources they need.

Memorable quotes about the EMS response to the epidemic
Here are three memorable quotes from Whitaker.

"248% increase in opioid overdose deaths in the United States since 2010."

"Public health, too often a forgotten partner, can bring a lot of expertise and resources to this problem."

"We are not trying to target people. We are targeting a problem."

Key takeaways on reducing opioid overdose death
Whitaker shared information about his department's program, as well as the solutions other communities are attempting to reduce opioid overdose deaths. Here are key takeaways from the session.

Understand the origin and consequences of the epidemic. Opioid use, addiction and overdose are a problem that drives other problems, like crime and violence. Prescription drug addiction is a significant gateway to heroin use and addiction.

Apply the community risk-reduction model. This approach is well-suited to EMS involvement in resolving the opioid overdose epidemic.

Robust data collection and sharing. Data from EMS on where used heroin needles were collected in a community and where naloxone was administered can be shared with law enforcement for identification of use patterns and drug distribution. Connecting data sources from ePCR and CAD systems can be used to show law enforcement real-time patterns and trends of drug overdoses.

Right patient to the right treatment. The top goal of an opioid death reduction program should be getting people with an addiction problem the help they need. EMS overdose reversal and law enforcement operations treat the symptoms, but don't solve the problem of user demand.

Partnerships open funding opportunities. Funding for innovative programs comes from a variety of sources including federal funding, state and local law enforcement and state public health grant funding opportunities, treatment facilities and other health care partners. Access to funds comes from building relationships and collaborative partnerships.

Learn more
Check out these articles and resources to learn more about the role of EMS to reduce deaths from opioid overdoses.

 

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