Our nation’s opioid epidemic has been well reported. In 2014, the most recent year on record, more people died from drug overdoses in any previous year, and more than six out of 10 of those deaths involved an opioid. Since 1999, the rate of overdose deaths involving opioids has nearly quadrupled.
Nationwide, hospitals are feeling the surge, with the epidemic having an economic impact of $20 billion in emergency department and inpatient care for opioid poisonings, according to the CDC.
Lakeview Hospital and the Washington County Sheriff’s Office are dealing with the problem head-on, collaborating on a project to reduce accidental opioid overdoses in Washington County. At the center of the project is expanding access for first responders to the medication naloxone, a step that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services calls “essential” to reversing the epidemic. Naloxone can reverse the effects of an opioid overdose.
Beginning in 2016, Lakeview EMS staff began supplying naloxone to Washington County Sheriff’s Office licensed deputies and training the staff on how to administer the medication if they are on the scene of an opioid overdose before the EMS team arrives. Deputies use a preloaded kit that has a mist they administer through the patient’s nose.
Through late 2016, Lakeview EMS had responded to 216 potential overdoses, and administered naloxone 29 times. But there are times when sheriff’s deputies are already at the scene and the person needs naloxone right away – and that’s when the new program saves lives. In 2016, the Washington County Sheriff’s Office gave patients naloxone seven times. Of those seven instances, six were considered “lifesaving” interventions.
The Lakeview and Washington County partnership project is fairly simple, but it has a huge impact on the people who need it and the community at large. With deputies able to administer a lifesaving drug, Washington County residents who have overdosed on opioids now have more people who can help them right away. As a result, they have a better opportunity to survive and get the long-term help they need to treat their addiction.