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Westmoreland ambulances to carry extra naloxone, treatment information for overdose survivors

Renatta Signorini
| Wednesday, Feb. 7, 2018, 2:45 p.m.
Naloxone, or Narcan, reverses the effects of an opioid overdose.
Steph Chambers | Tribune-Review
Naloxone, or Narcan, reverses the effects of an opioid overdose.
Jayme White shows a naloxone dosage delivery in the form of a nasal spray during an overdose prevention workshop  at SPHS Behavioral Health in Greensburg, Pa. on Friday Feb. 03, 2017.
Christian Tyler Randolph | Tribune-Review
Jayme White shows a naloxone dosage delivery in the form of a nasal spray during an overdose prevention workshop at SPHS Behavioral Health in Greensburg, Pa. on Friday Feb. 03, 2017.

It happens fairly often — ambulance personnel revive someone from an opioid overdose and then the patient refuses hospital treatment.

The paramedics and emergency medical technicians leave, unable to do anything more, and the person's drug addiction continues.

“We have a person in our coverage area that we have administered (naloxone), I think it's up to 11 or 12 times, on him,” said Michael Stangroom, director of operations at Rostraver/West Newton Emergency Services. “The system is broken. He has to want to get help, and he doesn't.”

The Westmoreland Drug and Alcohol Commission is putting an extra tool in ambulances — kits of naloxone, a drug that reverses the effects of an opioid overdose, and information about drug treatment for paramedics and EMTs to leave behind. That will reach people who are revived from an overdose and refuse to visit a hospital, where they would be funneled into a program that encourages treatment, said Liz Comer, director of clinical and case management services.

“This is helping to bridge the gap,” she said. “We're trying to reach the people who are refusing, who don't make it to the hospital, and their family members.”

The kits are being provided through a Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency program.

North Huntingdon EMS/Rescue and Rostraver/West Newton EMS each got about 50 kits after agreeing to participate with the commission. Comer met with other ambulance service directors this week.

It's usually a few times a week in North Huntingdon's coverage area that a person refuses to be taken to a hospital after being revived with naloxone, said Shane Spielvogle, executive director of the service.

“It's our hope that the other EMS agencies will take advantage of the program,” he said. “One of our biggest jobs is to get help to people where and when they need it.”

The kits provide more treatment resources than paramedics or EMTs can offer during their time with a patient. Patients who refuse to be transported will be asked to sign a release allowing the agency to share their name and other information with the commission, who will send a drug and alcohol case manager.

“If we had access to information that would allow us to contact the overdose survivors who refuse medical treatment, it could be a real game changer in the field and allow for engagement into treatment,” Comer said.

In the approximately 20 municipalities in Westmoreland, Washington and Fayette counties covered by Rostraver/West Newton ambulance, an overdose survivor refuses to be hospitalized “every single day,” Stangroom said.

“We're going to be able to leave behind (naloxone) to a loved one ... a responsible party, and we'll give them a rundown on how to use it, what to look for,” he said.

Stangroom plans to begin the program in the next couple weeks. North Huntingdon EMS will start Monday, Spielvogle said.

Renatta Signorini is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 724-837-5374, or via Twitter @byrenatta.

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