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:

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

Responding to Opioid Emergencies

Evidence-based approach

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.

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: