EMS and the Opioid Crisis
EMS plays a critical role in responding to the opioid crisis by providing immediate care for overdose patients, leading innovation with community health programs and sharing data with partners such as public health and law enforcement.
EMS systems and personnel have a unique perspective on the opioid crisis. Every day, EMS clinicians interact with people who use opioids and patients suffering from opioid addiction and overdose. Across the country, EMS systems are finding innovative solutions to prevent opioid overdoses, such as sharing EMS data with public health officials or engaging in community partnerships to link patients to addiction treatment programs.
Learn more about the role EMS plays in battling the opioid crisis in the resources below.
The Opioid Crisis Nationwide
Opioid overdoses and addiction present significant challenges to communities across the country. EMS systems play a critical role in fighting the epidemic, not only by responding to and treating overdoses, but also by supporting prevention efforts, linking patients to addiction treatment and sharing data with their public safety and public health partners.
Learn more about opioids and battling opioid addiction in these resources made available by the Department of Health and Human Services:
- Help, Resources and Information about the Opioid Addiction Crisis
- List of Resources for Opioid Addiction Treatment
- CDC Opioid Overdose Information
Using EMS Data to Battle the Opioid Crisis
Information collected by EMS clinicians can be used at local, state and national levels to address the opioid epidemic.
Electronic EMS records help officials track where and when overdoses happen. In some communities, EMS services regularly share data with public health and law enforcement agencies to help community partners better understand the epidemic and potential interventions.
Reports, Articles and Other Resources about EMS Data and Opioids
- NHTSA, the CDC and the National Registry of EMTs used national EMS data to demonstrate how EMS naloxone administration data can help provide a more complete evaluation of the burden of both nonfatal and fatal opioid overdoses. Read the article here.
- Researchers at the CDC, FDA, NHTSA and academic centers partnered to examine trends in naloxone administration using the NEMSIS Public Release Research datasets. Read the results here.
- Identification and Description of Non-Fatal Opioid Overdoses using Rhode Island EMS Data, 2016–2018
- NHTSA and NASEMSO examined state policies on the administration of opioid antagonists such as naloxone. Review the findings here.
- A NHTSA Public Health Fellow teamed up with local EMS and health officials in New Orleans to author an article on EMS and the opioid crisis.
- DEA Bulletin on Using EMS Data in New Orleans
- HHS report on Data Sources and Data-Linking Strategies to Support Research to Address the Opioid Crisis
- EMS Focus webinar: How EMS Can Reduce Opioid Overdoses
- Journal of Emergency Medical Services: EMS Data Can Help Stop the Opioid Epidemic
- Government Technology: How Local Data Helps Stunt Drug Overdoses
- Award winning report on modeling the opioid crisis uses EMS data
Responding to Opioid Emergencies
With support from Federal agencies and national organizations, several resources to promote a high-quality, evidence-based approach to treating opioid overdoses have been developed or are currently being researched. These include a model EMS protocol for using naloxone, a systematic literature review and an evidence-based guideline for the administration of naloxone.
- Evidence-Based Guidelines for EMS Administration of Naloxone
- Model EMS Protocol Relating to Naloxone Administration by EMS Personnel
- Systematic Review of EMS Management of Suspected Opioid Overdose
Scope of practice
The 2019 National EMS Scope of Practice Model, created through a cooperative agreement between NHTSA and the National Association of State EMS Officials, incorporated emergent updates first released in 2017 to add the administration of naloxone to the scope of practice for providers at every level (emergency medical responder (EMR), emergency medical technician (EMT), advanced EMT (AEMT) and paramedic).
First responder safety
There are no known confirmed cases of opioid toxicity through skin or respiratory contact with synthetic opioids among first responder personnel who responded to a call. However, because of concerns in the EMS, law enforcement and fire communities, several federal agencies and national organizations joined the White House to create recommendations to protect first responders who treat overdose victims. In addition, several other organizations have provided resources for first responders:
Safety Recommendations and Resources
- Fentanyl Safety Recommendations for First Responders
- Position Statement of the American College of Medical Toxicology and American Academy of Clinical Toxicology on Preventing Occupational Fentanyl and Fentanyl Analog Exposure to Emergency Responders
- Fentanyl: Preventing Occupational Exposure to Emergency Responders (NIOSH)
- Recommendations on Selection and Use of Personal Protective Equipment and Decontamination Products for First Responders Against Exposure Hazards to Synthetic Opioids, Including Fentanyl and Fentanyl Analogues (InterAgency Board)
- DHS Proceeding from the 2017 Fentanyl Working Meeting