Battling the Opioid Crisis as Employers

As ambulance providers we are acutely aware of the opioid crisis in the United States. As providers of emergency medical care, our EMS agencies have been responding to, and providing life–saving treatment to opioid users. In addition to fighting this crisis in the field, we can also combat opioid use in another way. The Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM) published an article this week, Surgeon General Calls On Employers to Combat Opioid Epidemic, regarding the role that employers can take in helping to fight the opioid epidemic.  The U.S. Surgeon General is urging employers to utilize the information available to them from employer sponsored health plans to restrict access to certain medications associated with the opioid crisis. In addition, he urged employers to utilize employer sponsored health plan claims data to gain insight to the de–identified beneficiary use of opioid medications. Employers with self–funded or captive insurance plans have greater access to claims information and can focus efforts more meaningfully. Lastly, the Surgeon General encouraged employers to ensure that employees have access to mental health and addiction medicine treatment benefits and suggested health plans that utilize Pharmacy Benefits Management (PBM) to limit opioid prescriptions in an effort to better align...

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Is Narcan the Answer?

There has been a lot of talk recently in social media and the news about leaving Narcan behind after a reversal of an opioid overdose. A new voluntary program in Pittsburgh, PA allows the state to pay for Narcan atomizers that EMS can leave with friends and family of OD patients. The media buzz revolves around the idea that we are enabling this cycle of addiction; “There is some pushback that maybe you’re enabling the problem a little bit, but at least in the short term, reduce the chances that person is going to die and you create more opportunities to get them into treatment,” said Mark Pinchalk, patient care coordinator for Pittsburgh EMS.” (Media, 2018, para. 3) I agree with Mr. Pinchalk that as an EMS Provider we are not there to judge, we are there to render aid. One of my early instructors said, “Scott, your purpose is to leave the patient better than the way you found them.” I have taken that long ago statement to heart ever since, trying to leave the patient better than the way I found them whether that is medically as in a Diabetic whose blood glucose I raise from 20mg/dl to (more…)

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…)

NHTSA and NASEMSO Host Panel on EMS Practices

The National Association of State EMS Officials (NASEMSO) and the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) hosted a series of meetings for subject matter experts to discuss revisions to the National EMS Scope of Practice model. The experts reviewed the model’s practices, examined education and training procedures, and discussed what certification level, if any, is needed for specific treatments that are now widely-used among EMS professionals. The panel focused on five specific procedures that are commonly practiced: hemorrhage control, Naloxone use, CPAP use, therapeutic hypothermia in cardiac arrest, and pharmacological pain management. Over the next several months, the panel will continue to examine information and recommend changes to the Scope of Practice model, with final recommendations tentatively set to be submitted in August 2018. For more information, please visit NASEMSO’s website.    

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…)

Savvik: Beat the EpiPen (Epinephrine) Price Surge!

You may have seen in the American Ambulance Association’s Digest newsletter that many ambulance services are facing a 400% price increase in the price of  EpiPen epinephrine injections. AAA members are beating the surge through AAA’s partnership with the Savvik Buying Group (formerly the North Central EMS Cooperative). Members, save big on Epi-Pen and Epi-Pen Jr today!    

AAA Meets with FDA on New Drug Dispenser Regulations

On October 21, the AAA participated in a meeting with stakeholders and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) about the need to ensure new regulations don’t discourage the transfer of small quantities of drugs between dispensers, hospitals and first responders among others. Under the Drug Supply Chain Security Act of 2013, starting on November 1, drug dispensers must provide a full transaction history for transactions involving even small transfers of drugs. Since these transactions are often done in paper form, it will be difficult for many drug dispensers to be compliant with the new regulation and may opt to not distribute drugs in small quantities. The AAA is participating in a coalition to ease initial enforcement on small transactions to help ensure those hospital pharmacies that provide first responders with drugs under a safe harbor agreement or direct cost reimbursement will continue to do so. The coalition of stakeholders including the AAA had sent a letter to the FDA on September 24 requesting the meeting.