Improving the Response of First Responders

Recognizing that fatal and non-fatal overdoses from opioids play an increasing role in the mortality and morbidity of Massachusetts residents, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health launched the Overdose Education and Naloxone Distribution (OEND) prevention program using intra-nasal Narcan (naloxone) in an attempt to reverse this trend.

Naloxone is an opioid antagonist which means it displaces the opioid from receptors in the brain. An overdose occurs because the opioid is on the same receptor site in the brain that is responsible for breathing. Naloxone usually acts dramatically, allowing slowed or absent breathing to resume. It is both safe and effective and has no potential for abuse. Naloxone has been used by paramedics in ambulances and by emergency room clinicians for decades.

Since December of 2007, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health has implemented overdose education and intra-nasal naloxone distribution (OEND) in eight community-based settings. These programs have trained potential bystanders to an overdose (drug users, friends, family members) on how to reduce overdose risk, recognize signs of an overdose, access emergency medical services, and administer intra-nasal naloxone.

First responders such as police and fire departments; and staff of agencies that serve high-risk individuals can also play a key role in saving lives if they have been trained and have access to Naloxone.

Visit the Boston Public Health Commission Web site for a curriculum and presentation that guides experienced group leaders on implementing overdose prevention training to police officers, non-medical first responders, and security staff.

SAMHSA also developed Five Essential Steps for First Responder's from their Opioid Overdose TOOLKIT.