Hennepin EMS protocols include treatment for opioid withdrawal
Hennepin EMS – the primary emergency medical services provider for 14 municipalities in Hennepin County – is now carrying Suboxone® on its rigs to have ready for calls to patients suffering from opioid withdrawal symptoms. This drug is proven effective for use in outpatient settings and can now be prescribed by any physician with an active DEA license thanks to recent changes made in federal law. Hennepin EMS paramedics are covered under this same license as they work under the direction of medical providers at HCMC.
“One of the biggest changes is offering Suboxone to patients who are experiencing acute naloxone-induced opioid withdrawal,” explains Dr. Nicholas Simpson, Emergency and Hennepin EMS Physician at Hennepin Healthcare. In the past 6 months alone, Hennepin EMS professionals have cared for more than 1,100 patients requiring Naloxone to recover from an overdose.
“Patients who have experienced an overdose may have an opportunity to start this treatment while in the care of Hennepin EMS. After they have started treatment, it is much easier to get into a clinic and maintain this therapy.”
Some of the symptoms of opioid withdrawal (including naloxone-induced):
- Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea
- Hot and cold flashes
- Pain, muscle cramps
- Watery discharge from eyes, nose
Hennepin EMS worked closely with addiction medicine experts to see what they could do to help improve patient care outcomes during this opioid crisis, which ultimately led to the launch of the initiative.
“We are now one of only a handful of EMS services in the entire country using Suboxone,” continues Dr. Simpson. “Additionally, as far as we know, we may have one of the most comprehensive EMS protocols in the country to engage patients in this treatment when they are most likely to be receptive to seek change and get care.”
Hennepin EMS then collaborated with Hennepin Healthcare’s Outpatient Addiction Medicine Department to fine-tune the protocol to ensure the best approach for positive outcomes.
“Having this protocol and medication available for EMS professionals offers them the greatest opportunity to make a difference in the lives of our patients,” said Marty Scheerer, Hennepin EMS Chief. “There’s nothing more rewarding than being able to do more than save a life. They’re bridging a gap that might get patients to a place of hope and recovery, where they can truly live.”
An interactive dashboard on Hennepin County’s Opioid Epidemic web page reveals the alarming increase in opioid-related deaths in Hennepin County and across the entire state.
Hennepin Healthcare is dedicated to improving the health of its patients, many of whom are more socially and medically complex, and more likely to live in deep poverty, experience homelessness, serious mental illnesses, and substance use disorders.