Home Emergency Management News New Law Improves First Responders’ Abilities to Administer Emergency Medications

New Law Improves First Responders’ Abilities to Administer Emergency Medications


By Allison G. S. Knox
Contributor, EDM Digest

Public policies are often an intricate, nebulous web of legislation, public interests and politics. What might seem to be a simple fix for one policy area through legislation can create the most complicated of policies as lawmakers attempt to rectify a situation.

Experts often hypothesize that as more laws are created, more policies will intersect, creating further complications. Interest groups must carefully watch the creation of new legislation and policies that have the potential to affect other areas of society.

Recently President Trump signed a bill into law, the Protecting Patient Access to Emergency Medications Act of 2017 (H.R. 304). It was created to rectify a potentially hazardous situation created by the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA).

DEA Restricted Paramedics’ Ability to Use Opioids without Doctor’s Order

According to the International Association of Fire Fighters, prior to enactment of this new law, the DEA had a policy prohibiting paramedics from administering opioid medications without a doctor’s order. The policy was DEA’s attempt to close a gap in the current opioid crisis. Widespread opioid abuse appears to be spiraling out of control, with politicians and public administrators desperate to resolve this crisis.

From the DEA’s perspective, its policy helped cut down on opioid abuse, especially in emergency medicine. There have also been documented cases of people in public safety positions having serious substance opioid abuse issues and gaining access to these dangerous types of medications.

Inability to Use Opioids Impacted Patient Care

Unfortunately, the DEA policy was particularly disastrous for patients in desperate need of certain medications. In emergency medicine, time is an important factor in patient care. The DEA’s policy significantly delayed patient care in numerous cases and created a level of complication without real merit.

New Law Will Allow First Responders to Obtain Opioids through DEA Registration

The new law allows emergency medical services agencies to register with the DEA for opioid use. This law also reduces bureaucratic red tape and redresses the error created by the DEA. As a result, emergency medical services can now easily access the medications they need for appropriate and timely patient care.

Allison G. S. Knox Passionate about the issues affecting ambulances and disaster management, Allison focuses on Emergency Management and Emergency Medical Services policy. Allison has taught at the undergraduate level since 2010. Prior to teaching, she worked in a level-one trauma center emergency department and for a member of Congress in Washington, D.C. She holds four master’s degrees in Emergency Management, National Security Studies, International Relations, and History; a Graduate Certificate in Homeland Security; and a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science. Allison is an Emergency Medical Technician, Lifeguard, and Lifeguard Instructor, and is trained in Technical Large Animal Emergency Rescue. She serves on the Board of Trustees for Pi Gamma Mu International Honor Society as Chancellor of the Southeast Region, Vice Chair of the Tactical Emergency Medical Support Committee with the International Public Safety Association, and serves as the Advocacy Coordinator of Virginia with the National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians. She is also a member of several committees including the Editorial Committee with APCO, the Rescue Task Force Committee with the International Public Safety Association, and the Advocacy Committee with the National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians. She also serves as Chair of the Leadership Development Program for the 2020 Pi Gamma Mu Triennial Convention. Allison has published several book reviews and continues to write about issues affecting ambulances, emergency management, and homeland security.