Fentanyl Increasingly Dangerous to First Responders

The explosion of the opioid epidemic that is responsible for thousands of overdoses and deaths is a consistent problem that EMS and law enforcement encounter on an almost daily basis. Usually, the victims of these powerful drugs, such as heroin and fentanyl, are opioid users, who EMS personnel and law enforcement are regularly called to assist. However, first responders are also being warned about the increased risks they face of being exposed to these deadly drugs, specifically fentanyl—a popular synthetic opioid that is 40 to 50 times more powerful than heroin. To respond to these dangers, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) released a field guide called “Fentanyl: A Brief Guide for First Responders” for EMS and police who find themselves responding to opioid-related calls. “We need everybody in the United States to understand how dangerous this is,” Acting DEA Administrator Chuck Rosenberg warned. “Exposure to an amount equivalent to a few grains of sand can kill you.” The warnings have become more urgent in recent months due to numerous cases of accidental overdoses and exposures involving EMS and police. In May, Chris Green, a police officer with the East Liverpool Police Department, was accidentally exposed to fentanyl during a routine traffic stop after he inadvertently ingested the drug through his skin. Green needed four shots (more…)

HHS to Administer $70 million in Funds to Combat Opioid Crisis

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced $70 million in grants to help communities and health care professionals combat the ongoing opioid crisis that is ravaging communities across the U.S. The majority of the money will be used to help prevent opioid-induced deaths and to provide treatment for people with opioid use disorders, including $28 million allotted for medication-based treatment. More than 33,000 lives were claimed in 2015 due to opioid overdoses. $41.7 million of the funding is set to expand resources and training for first responders on how to use emergency treatments, such as Narcan, to help reverse and treat overdoses. In many cases, first responders are often the difference between life and death for opioid users who experience an overdose, so it is imperative health care professionals have access to the needed resources and training to help save lives. The additional funding aims to help paramedics, EMTs and other emergency service personnel gain access to much-needed resources. “The grants we announce today clearly demonstrate our efforts to meet the opioid crisis with every tool at our disposal,” said Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary Kana Enomoto. “The evidence-based training, medication, and behavioral therapies provided here will save lives and help people with addictions (more…)

Cross-Cultural Communication for EMS

Barriers to Understanding In all healthcare settings, successful communication with patients and families depends on awareness of three key barriers to their understanding and compliance: Cultural Barriers: Understanding western medicine and the U.S. healthcare system is a challenge for many of us, but it is especially problematic for recent immigrants and refugees. 72% of U. S. population growth in the next 20 years will come from immigrants, or the children of immigrants. Limited English Proficiency: The number of people who spoke a language other than English at home grew by 38 percent in the 1980s and by 47 percent in the 1990s. While the population aged 5 and over grew by one-fourth from 1980 to 2000, the number who spoke a language other than English at home more than doubled. Low Health Literacy: While poor understanding of the health care system and difficulty understanding health care instructions may be associated with language and cultural barriers, low health literacy is also found in patients who are proficient in English and who share the common U.S. culture. This latter group may be especially at risk of having their low health literacy go unrecognized. 90 million “mainstream” Americans cannot understand basic health information. (more…)