Citing a lack of standardized protocols throughout the County’s hospital emergency rooms for patients who’ve overdosed on opioids, the Suffolk Legislature last night approved the creation of a 13 member panel to draft recommendations for treating the addiction component of an overdose in patients. The bill sponsored by the Legislature’s Majority Leader Kara Hahn and Legislator William Spencer will create a working group comprised of health department officials, hospital representatives and addiction experts charged with developing a model of best practices that emergency departments can voluntarily implement. The group will have seven months to put together its guidelines that the Suffolk County Department of Health Services will then provide to hospitals. Following the initial protocol’s distribution, members will continue to convene annually to consider revisions or additions to the guidance.
While emergency rooms are primarily designed to treat the immediate toxicological aspects of an overdose, hospitals often follow post-opioid overdose protocols that may include offering overdose prevention education, naloxone and related training for patients, family members, and friends; linking patients to treatment and services in the community and starting Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) of Opioid Addiction including use of Methadone and Suboxone. Currently, New York State doesn’t prescribe uniform recommendations on post-overdose treatment of patients, leaving decisions on the type of services to provide, or not provide, to individual hospitals across the state.
“Being brought back to life from an overdose is about as rock bottom as it can get for an addict, but the realization that you have been granted another chance at life is perhaps the ideal point to begin rebuilding,” said Legislator Hahn. “Ensuring every hospital in Suffolk has a set of effective protocols dealing with overdose and addiction that focuses on best practices for success will provide all in this County a better shot at overcoming addition.”
“I applaud Legislator Hahn for her leadership on this critical issue. By bringing together experts in the health care and addiction fields to develop the best practices and model protocols for our emergency departments, we can help save lives and put addicts on the path toward long term recovery,” stated Legislator William R. Spencer, MD.
Research has consistently linked the types of post-overdose care provided in emergency departments with the continuation of addiction treatment following release. A 2015 study published by the Journal of the American Medical Association of three different interventions methods used for opioid-dependent patients who visited one emergency department found that 78 percent of patients who received highly integrated services inclusive of MAT were still in treatment 30 days following discharge compared to just 37 percent who received just a pamphlet listing contact information for available addiction counseling services.
According to Executive Director Steve Chassman ,“The Long Island Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (LICADD) commends Legislator Kara Hahn and her colleagues in the Suffolk County Legislature, for addressing the disparities in protocols surrounding overdose victims in our communities and local medical facilities. Thank you Legislator Hahn for inquiring with a cross section of professionals to assess where the gaps in services exist and allowing the medical and human service professionals to develop concrete protocols focusing on how to best assist individuals and families who experience near fatal overdoses in Suffolk County. This important piece of legislation will positively impact a multitude of individuals and families in Suffolk County suffering from the ravages of a substance use disorder.”
Dr. Jeffrey L. Reynolds of Family and Children's Association added, "As we begin to turn the corner in Suffolk's heroin and opioid crisis, we must make sure that those who land in emergency rooms following an overdose get timely and comprehensive care that reflects the latest clinical protocols. An overdose and subsequent trip to the emergency room is traumatic, but if managed correctly with proper intervention, care and support can provide a life-changing shot at recovery. Legislator Hahn was among the first to advocate for increased naloxone availability several years ago and we are pleased that her quest to save lives continues with this excellent piece of legislation."
The bill now moves to County Executive Steve Bellone for his expected signature within the next fifteen days.
Turing the tide on opioid related overdoses in Suffolk has been a top priority for Legislator Hahn since taking office in 2012. During her first year, she sponsored legislation that equipped Suffolk County Police officers, who are often times the first responders to an overdose call, with Narcan so that aid can be given to victims quicker. Next, she sponsored legislation that directed drug treatment referrals be given to individuals who received Narcan after an overdose and passed legislation that directed the Department of Health Services to become a certified training center for Narcan overdose responders giving the Suffolk County Department of Health Services the ability to conduct trainings sessions that have educated nearly 10,000 residents on how to recognize an overdose and administer Naloxone. And, just this summer, Legislator Hahn continued her leadership on this issue by completing a year and a half of collaborative work on a curriculum for athletic coaches to help identify signs and symptoms of addiction and learn intervention strategies.