Editor’s Note: This article first appeared on EDM Digest.

By Allison G. S. Knox, faculty member at American Military University

The opioid crisis has created serious issues for emergency medical services, law enforcement and fire departments. In Connecticut, a proposed piece of legislation would correct an important patient care issue, which involves transporting an opioid drug overdose patient to a hospital even after the patient received a dose of Narcan, an opioid inhibitor to reverse the overdose. The proposed policy would correct a potential problem in some Connecticut communities.

[Download Free Digital Magazine: A Public Health Perspective on the Opioid Crisis]

How Opioid Inhibitors Work

Naxolone and Narcan (the brand name of Naxolone) are opioid inhibitors that bond better to brain cell receptors than opioids. These medications will pull individuals out of an opioid-related overdose almost immediately, saving countless lives.

But an opioid user who requires Narcan or Naxolone to reverse an opioid overdose also needs professional medical care that might not involve a hospital.

Patients Need to Go to Hospital after Any Overdose, Even with Narcan Administered by Private Citizens

In some states, private citizens can be provided with doses of Narcan to prevent overdoses in the general public. Narcan injection is available as a sterile solution for intravenous, intramuscular and subcutaneous administration.  However, if a patient is not transported to a hospital shortly after receiving Narcan, his or her life is in danger because overdoses require follow-up medical care. This is exactly what happened in Connecticut.

[Related: Understanding the Scope of the Opioid Crisis in America]

A mother in Guilford lost her son because he was not transported to a hospital after receiving a dose of Narcan. His death was due to opioid withdrawal. She is a now strong supporter of the proposed legislation that would require transportation to medical facilities for all patients who have been given Narcan.

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Connecticut Policy Does Not Focus on Overdose Patients Transported to Hospital by Private Citizens

Emergency Medical Services is a pre-hospital care public safety agency. In most cases, patients are transported to a hospital by emergency medical technicians (EMTs) after they have been administered drugs like Narcan and Naxolone.

The proposed Connecticut legislation would cover on those EMTs, who already routinely transport opioid overdose patients to hospitals. However, the bill does not cover individuals who received Narcan by others than EMTs or paramedics. Examples might include pharmacists, private physicians, physicians’ assistants, and nurses.

In addition, patients who receive Narcan may become violent when the medication revives them.

Good Samaritans who administer the drug may not be able to transport that person to a medical facility. Also, they might be unwilling to take patients to hospitals out of concern for potential legal or healthcare repercussions. Like many laws, there will always be cases that fall outside the purview of the legislation.

New Connecticut Policy Would Provide EMS with More Resources for Overdose Patient Management

The proposed legislation might not close all loopholes in dealing with patients who have overdosed on opioids. But it certainly would save lives, particularly if EMS personnel are required to always transport overdose patients to hospitals.

If it passes, the new law could also result in emergency medical services receiving more state resources to manage violent overdose cases and improve the safety factor statewide.

ConnecticutAbout the Author: Allison G. S. Knox is a faculty member at American Military University, teaching courses in Emergency and Disaster Management. Her research interests are comprised of emergency management and emergency medical services policy issues. Prior to teaching, Allison worked in a level one trauma center emergency department and for a Member of Congress in Washington, D.C. She holds four Master of Arts degrees in emergency management, international relations, national security studies and history. She is a certified lifeguard, MET and is also trained in Technical Large Animal Emergency Rescue. Allison currently serves as Advocacy Coordinator of Virginia for NAEMT, Chapter Sponsor for the West Virginia Iota Chapter of Pi Gamma Mu International Honor Society, and Faculty Advisor for the Political Science Scholars. She is also on the Board of Trustees and serves as Chancellor of the Southeast Region for Pi Gamma Mu International Honor Society in the Social Sciences. She can be reached at IPSauthor@apus.edu. For more articles featuring insight from industry experts, subscribe to In Public Safety’s bi-monthly newsletter.


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