During the coronavirus pandemic, the opioid crisis worsened. New CDC data from April 2020 and April 2021 more than 100,000 thousand people died from drug overdoses.
This month, Pittsburgh EMS rolled out a new pilot program that gives emergency medical personnel another tool to combat drug overdoses. A pilot group of paramedics completed training to administer prehospital buprenorphine.
According to a City of Pittsburgh press release, the Pennsylvania Department of Health Bureau of EMS approved the City of Pittsburgh EMS’ Prehospital Buprenorphine Pilot Program in September. It allows EMS officials to administer buprenorphine to patients experiencing opioid withdrawal regardless of whether the patient goes to a hospital.
City of Pittsburgh Public Safety Bureau personnel are trained to administer naloxone (Narcan) to provide lifesaving aid to individuals experiencing a drug overdose. However, the pilot program adds buprenorphine, a drug regularly used by hospitals and physicians to treat opioid use disorder and opioid withdrawal, to the recovery process.
Advanced Life Support EMS will administer the drug. Patients will be able to schedule a virtual follow up with the UPMC Medical Toxicology Bridge Clinic to have a doctor consultation within 24 hours to get a buprenorphine prescription and connect with other critical harm reduction resources.
“The opioid epidemic has deeply affected so many cities and communities. If tools like buprenorphine exist, we need to have them in our communities and with our emergency medical personnel,” said Mayor William Peduto in the release. “I’d like to thank the Department of Public Safety, Pittsburgh EMS and the Office of Community Health and Safety for their continued leadership here in our communities and nationally to provide real solutions to those with substance use disorder.”
The pilot program was designed by the Bureau of EMS in partnership with the Office of Community Health and Safety and will run for one year.
Story Credit: Editorumt/jrtmediapr