Key issues that emergency services departments need to prepare for to handle mass overdoses.
First responders were “sprinting from patient to patient” in a New Haven, Connecticut park last week after more than 70 people overdosed within a few hours. The volume of patients badly strained emergency services. Within a few days the number had climbed to 114 overdoses, but no one died.
Though overdoses are in the news daily now, this case is surprisingly not attributed to the opioid problem but to a bad batch of K2, which also goes by the name Spice. K2 is a synthetic marijuana, illegal in many states but often still sold in gas stations and is easily obtainable online. Authorities originally feared the K2 had been laced with fentanyl, but that appears not to be the case.
This could happen anywhere. Departments should review this incident and:
- Ensure your mutual aid agreements are up-to-date as well as your methods for recalling off-duty personnel.
- Review how to treat different overdoses, be familiar with drug paraphernalia and packaging to help identify the substance the individual has used.
- Work with state and local legislative bodies and public health offices to better address the drug problem locally.
- Check that your personnel are getting the support they need and have the tools and supplies necessary in case a mass overdose call comes in.