By Randall Hanifen
Contributor, EDM Digest
The war on drugs has been a policy issue since the Nixon Administration, and has gained momentum again because of the rise of the chrystal meth (methamphetamine) is easily accessed and new drugs like the elephant tranquilizer are hitting the underground market. 911 calls for drug overdoses are becoming more frequent and it is forcing communities to reconsider some of the policies they had in the past. The opioid epidemic is also creating a problem for local level emergency management and resource management.
The Duty to Act
The Duty to Act is not a policy that any community is reconsidering, but it is a policy that complicates how Emergency Medical Services manage their resources. Emergency Medical Technicians and Paramedics have a link whenever they are on duty and have a 911 call. Regardless of the nature of the call and whether it is an actual emergency, Emergency Medical Technicians and Paramedics need to respond following the response times for their jurisdiction. Thus, the Duty to Act can complicate resource management because ambulances cannot redeploy from a scene regardless of the priority of another patient. So, if a patient required assistance for a drug overdose, it might mean that it could take longer for an ambulance to reach them based on the resources that an agency or neighboring agency has available.
Combatting the Issue
The opioid epidemic is forcing EMS agencies to reconsider how they handle drug overdose patients. Policy-wise, it can be difficult to create a policy that essentially bars people from drug use. Public health campaigns work to erradicate the issue through education. Despite these efforts, the opium epidemic can complicate resource management for many jurisdictions. Thus, it is important that collaboration between police, fire, EMS, emergency management and the local officials needs to take place in order to come up with solutions to help solve the issue. It may mean changing how resources are managed, or who is able to administer drugs like Narcan.
Drug overdoses are serious medical emergencies. In many cases a patient may die unless they receive lifesaving treatment. If ambulances are in rural areas, transporting such serious patients can have negative consequences. In some jurisdictions, Narcan, a [title=”drug that will reverse the effects of opium-based drugs”], is being used by first responders to help combat the opioid epidemic. This paradigm shift is changing how resources are managed at the local level. It can change patient outcomes for the better while helping EMS agencies to better manage the resources they have to better serve the community.
Ultimately, it is important for local level agencies to contemplate how to manage drug overdoses, especially if their communities are seeing a rise in drug overdoes in general. These types of medical emergencies are quite serious and require medical intervention. Thus, drug overdoses present some challenges for resource management. It is important for EMS agencies to contemplate if there are any other ways they can handle these types of emergencies changing how they handle resources for the better.