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09/25/2019

Department of Health Highlights EMS Naloxone Leave Behind Program

Harrisburg, PA – Department of Health officials today joined the City of Philadelphia Fire Department to highlight the EMS Naloxone Leave Behind Program, as part of the second Stop Overdoses in PA: Get Help Now Week, a statewide initiative to get the overdose reversal medication naloxone to Pennsylvanians and get help for residents suffering from the disease of opioid use disorder (OUD).

“EMS providers are the first line of help for patients who need immediate medical treatment,” said Deputy Secretary Ray Barishansky. “The naloxone leave behind program is instrumental in getting the life-saving drug to Pennsylvanians. By doing this, we are giving those experiencing an overdose a second chance at life, because treatment works and recovery is possible.”

EMS agencies play a critical role in the opioid epidemic by getting those suffering from substance use disorders into treatment. EMS providers are a key step in the warm handoff process by working quickly to get patients to the hospital so they can get the help that they need.

Many EMS providers across Pennsylvania, including the City of Philadelphia Fire Department, participate in the naloxone leave-behind program. This program, part of Governor Tom Wolf’s disaster declaration, uses a standing order allowing providers to leave-behind naloxone for someone who is at risk of overdosing.

"In just over one year, PFD EMS providers have distributed more than 2,000 life-saving leave-behind naloxone kits to the public," said Assistant Deputy Commissioner Crystal Yates. "But responding to this crisis is a team effort, and we are grateful for the support from many other city agencies."

In celebrating National Recovery Month, Pennsylvania is hosting Stop Overdoses in PA: Get Help Now Week, where residents will be able to go to a state health center or their local pharmacy to get the overdose reversal medication naloxone. This medication reverses the effects of an opioid overdose and gives the patient a chance at recovery.

“We cannot get someone into treatment if they are dead,” Gov. Wolf said. “Naloxone saves lives and we should all carry it because you never know when you will get the chance to help someone. Last year, we distributed over 7,000 kits of free naloxone during our first Stop Overdoses in PA: Get Help Now Week. This year, we hope to get this life-saving tool into the hands of even more Pennsylvanians.”

The Opioid Command Center, established in January 2018 when Gov. Wolf signed the first opioid disaster declaration, meets every week to discuss the opioid crisis. The command center is staffed by personnel from 17 state agencies, spearheaded by the departments of Health and Drug and Alcohol Programs. Work to address the opioid crisis focuses on three areas: prevention, rescue and treatment. Efforts over the past four years, working with state agencies, local, regional and federal officials, have resulted in significant action to address the opioid crisis. Recent efforts include:

  • The Prescription Drug Monitoring Program has reduced opioid prescriptions by 27 percent and has virtually eliminated doctor shopping.
  • The Opioid Data Dashboard and Data Dashboard 2.0 is providing public-facing data regarding prevention, rescue and treatment.
  • The waiver of birth certificate fees for those with opioid use disorder has helped close to 2,500 people, enabling easier entry into recovery programs.
  • A standing order signed by Dr. Rachel Levine in 2018 allowed EMS to leave behind nearly 1,100 doses of naloxone.
  • More than 6,000 health care professionals have been visited and provided training on how to prescribe opioids cautiously and judiciously.
  • 813 drug take-back boxes help Pennsylvanians properly dispose of unwanted drugs, including 482,000 pounds of unwanted drugs in 2018.
  • The Get Help Now Hotline received more than 25,000 calls, with nearly half of all callers connected directly to a treatment provider.
  • The state prison system has expanded their Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) program, which is viewed as a model program for other states.
  • More than 100 licensed physicians or prescribers have been disciplined for wrongful practice over the past two years.
  • Several agencies have worked together to collaborate on the seizure and destruction of illicit opioids across Pennsylvania.       
  • The coordination with seven major commercial providers has expanded access to naloxone and mental health care, while also working to make it more affordable.
  • Naloxone has been made available to first responders through the Commission on Crime and Delinquency, with more than 25,000 doses made available and more than 4,500 saves through that program. In addition, EMS have administered more than 25,000 doses of naloxone and more than 7,000 doses were made available to members of the public during the state’s naloxone distribution last year. 

For more information on Pennsylvania’s response to the opioid crisis visit www.pa.gov/opioids.

MEDIA CONTACT: Nate Wardle, 717-787-1783 or ra-dhpressoffice@pa.gov

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