Suffolk County Executive Bellone Announces New Training Program for First Responders to Combat the Opioid Epidemic

Written by Long Island News & PR  |  13. December 2018

Suffolk County, NY - December 13, 2018 - Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone today announced a new training program for first responders aimed at reducing compassion fatigue as part of the County’s continued efforts to combat the opioid epidemic. The new program, which will be funded by a $75,000 federal pass through-grant, will enable the Suffolk County Department of Health Services to engage medical providers to include medication-assisted treatment in their practices, and provide additional opioid-overdose-reversal training in non-traditional settings.
“Since day one, we have committed more resources, more education and more training to support those who are on the front lines in fighting the opioid epidemic,” said Suffolk County Executive Bellone. “These federal resources are critical to fund innovative programs that support healthcare providers and our emergency medical response.”
“Continued support for our first responders is critical to maintaining the county’s ability to systematically reverse overdoses,” said Dr. James Tomarken, Suffolk County Commissioner of Health. “This program will engage first responders to view drug use as a complex, multi-faceted phenomenon and enable them to apply strategies that incorporate the concepts of disease and recovery. Ultimately, we hope to keep these everyday heroes engaged, supportive, and nonjudgmental, and we want individuals who need help to call 911 without fear of judgment.” 
The bulk of the grant funds, $50,000, will be applied to a new training program for first responders that will enable them to employ a set of practical strategies aimed at reducing compassion fatigue when witnessing the harshest of life circumstances. Although first responders are highly trained to handle stressful events, repeated exposure to the negative effects of opioid addiction can lead to compassion fatigue. The training will enable Suffolk County’s first responders to identify the signs and symptoms of compassion fatigue, incorporate strategies for coping with compassion fatigue, and ultimately prevent compassion fatigue. 
Since the opioid overdose prevention pilot project in 2012, all first responders in Suffolk County, including police officers, have been trained to identify and reverse opioid overdoses. As a result, they have saved countless lives and been a critical part of the response to the opioid epidemic.
To date the Suffolk County Department of Health Services has conducted 433 independent classes, training more than 12,000 non-traditional responders in opioid recognition and reversal since 2013. In addition, local hospitals, which offer opioid overdose prevention training and Narcan™ kits under Suffolk County’s New York State authorized program have collectively trained 12,652 individuals and dispensed 12,371 overdose resuscitation kits to non-traditional first responders, creating a new level of first responder to intervene in the critical minutes between discovery of an overdose and administration of Narcan™. 
Medication-Assisted Treatment
To fulfill the second part of the new grant initiative, the health department will hire a consultant to guide and provide technical assistance to the county’s medication-assisted-treatment workgroup, which is charged with ensuring access to effective treatment in Suffolk County. The goal is to increase the number of active buprenorphine prescribers in Suffolk County; develop networks for consultation and mentoring; and strengthening the networks of care that will include medical providers, agencies, hospitals, and peers.  
Naloxone Access Expansion Efforts
The third part of the grant initiative involves force multiplication. Next year Suffolk County will approach local businesses to increase the number of people trained to recognize an opioid overdose and reverse it using naloxone. Realizing that opioid overdoses can happen anywhere, the county intends to expand the opioid-overdose-prevention program into non-traditional settings that have not been previously accessed. The training will also incorporate information about substance use disorder and availability of treatment and services in the community.
New Opioid Overdose Prevention Class
Additionally, County Executive Bellone announces a new Opioid Overdose Prevention Class will take place on Tuesday, December 18, 2018 from 6: p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Bridgehampton Library.
The training, which meets New York State Department of Health requirements, will enable participants to recognize an opioid overdose, administer intranasal naloxone, better known as Narcan™, and take additional time-dependent steps while Emergency Medical Service teams are in transit. Participants will receive a certificate of completion and an emergency resuscitation kit that includes the intranasal Narcan™
Offered in conjunction with Legislator Bridget Fleming, HUGS, Inc., SAFE in Sag Harbor, Southampton Police Department, Suffolk County Department of Health Services, and Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office, the training will take place at Bridgehampton Library, 2478 Main Street, Bridgehampton, on Tuesday, December 18 from 6 p.m. – 7 p.m. Those who are interested should RSVP to Paul.Brady@suffolkcountyny.gov  or call 631-852-8400. 

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