Clifton Park

Clifton Park Halfmoon EMS on opioid crisis front line

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The Clifton Park Halfmoon Emergency Corps has taken an active role in mitigating the opioid addiction epidemic in Saratoga County over the past year with new overdose prevention trainings and access to resources that members of the public can easily obtain, like Narcan, the medication used to reverse overdoses.

The agency started to hold free classes in August that focus on overdose prevention training. The classes, for which anyone can register, cover topics such as how to administer Narcan, the medication used to reverse overdoses, how to spot signs of an overdose, and how to access resources for recovery for both family members as well as those struggling with an addiction.

The classes are the latest implementation in an initiative the agency has been planning for some time. About a year and a half ago the emergency corps kicked off an Opioid Overdose Prevention Program (OOPP), said paramedic Mandee Nann and R.J. Stutzmann, an emergency medical technician with the organization.

“In response to a nationwide, statewide, worldwide opioid epidemic, there’s been a big push to get more education, more information, and sort of the front line resource of Narcan available to the general public,” Stutzmann said. 

Implementing OOPPs, they said, is a process that agencies  must coordinate with the state Department of Health. Agencies must obtain certification from the state to host such programs, and then can work within parameters given to determine which types of activities would best serve their own communities. 

The Clifton Park Halfmoon Emergency Corps received OOPP certification 18 months ago. That certification, they said, gives the agency supplies needed to conduct trainings for dispensing Narcan both on and off the scene of calls and other initiatives, including a supply of Narcan from the state at no cost to equip paramedics in the field or to distribute to authorized public.

Another aspect of the program is an informational brochure filled with resources that medics in the field carry with them, and can distribute at any time or place

“It’s not just to get Narcan in the hands of the general public. It’s to let people know, here’s a whole list of easily accessible resources, places to get help, medication treatment options, getting into rehab, whatever it may be, and we’re really kind of pushing that treatment aspect of it. Letting people know that it’s easier to access than they probably realize, and here’s how you do it,” Stutzmann said.

As of June, one third of the overdose calls that the ambulance corps responded to have seen Narcan administered prior to the arrival of paramedics on the scene. There have been 16 overdose calls so far in the year.

Other agencies host similar Narcan trainings, Nann said, but training from paramedics who are consistently sent to calls that involved directly dealing with the victim of an overdose and often volatile family members is different. 

Naan and Stutzmann both recalled overdose calls they or people they knew had been on during which family members reacted to the situation in varying ways, from anger to sadness or total disinterest. 

Realizing that overdose situations are anything but cut and dry, and learning how to react to them with is advantageous, the two said.

“It’s different from someone who has been on a call. We’re talking about real life,” Nann said.

Since OOPPs allow paramedics to not only carry Narcan, but to train civilians with it on the scene of an overdose,  the programs allow first responders to further interact with both family members and addicts that might not have been possible before, Stutzmann said. 

The few minutes that first responders spend with an addict or their families on the scenes of overdoses are crucial in helping people understand that they can both talk about the issue and seek help without being judged, and goes far in breaking down the wall that might exist between overdose victims and first responders.

If that first interaction goes well, people might be more likely to follow up with the emergency corps by either coming to the buildings in either Clifton Park or Mechanicville to get a Narcan kit or treatment information, or by simply picking up the phone and calling the agency to find out where to get help.

“We need to make connections. That is key,” Stutzmann said.

With the scope of the opioid epidemic being so vast, it was inevitable that first responders would have to take up the role of not only active treatment providers at overdose scenes, but also as teachers and community connectors.

“We need the people to be connected to the resource, and one of the ways you make that happen is by EMS agencies having access to that information,” Nann said. “So that they know to pass on this information to a patient. Because not everyone wants to go to the hospital. So, if you’re not going to the hospital, are you just left stranded with no resources? Or is that EMS agency equipped to pass on those resources so that you can make those connections even if you don’t go to the hospital, or so that you’re family can have those resources.”

Those who wish to find out more about the monthly classes hosted by the Clifton Park Halfmoon Emergency Corps, to receive a free Narcan kit or get information about addiction treatment options and resources can call the agency at (518) 371-3880 extension 154, or email [email protected]

Categories: News, Saratoga County, Schenectady County, Your Niskayuna

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