Opioid issues dominate EMS roundtable discussion

Bristol Press

BRISTOL - The opioid epidemic dominated talks Friday during a roundtable discussion between Sens. Chris Murphy and Richard Blumenthal and more than a dozen representatives from area ambulance service providers.

The discussion was hosted by Bristol Hospital during national EMS Week.

The biggest issue, EMS officials agreed, is that addicts have very little chance of getting into a long-term treatment program because of a lack of funding. And while Narcan is now used by first responders to save the lives of those who have overdosed on heroin, it allows the system to turn a blind eye to the lack of long-term treatment options.

“We can’t lose sight of the fact that the system is just falling apart,” Murphy said, adding that the opioid crisis if getting worse, not better.

Another problem ambulance providers face is the issue of reimbursements. For instance, if an ambulance is dispatched to the scene of a medical call and the patient is treated there and not transported to the hospital, the ambulance company cannot get reimbursed for the services that were provided.

According to David Koscuk, director of the Bristol Hospital EMS, this has been known to happen when overdose victims are treated with Narcan, in addition to other situations involving medical calls. Koscuk, as well as other ambulance representatives Friday, said the bigger issue is reclassifying EMS services as a health care provider as opposed to just a means of transportation.

Murphy called it “ridiculous” that paramedics are looked at as just a transportation service, adding that, because of this, it creates roadblocks to getting more funding.

Touching on the opioid crisis again, Blumenthal said he hears from some law enforcement officers that heroin addicts have started using more since Narcan became more readily available to not just to first responders, but addicts themselves. The idea being that they know they have a safety net in place.

Some EMS officials took issue with this notion, while others weren’t willing to completely dismiss it. Blumenthal added that he doesn’t agree or disagree with the premise, but that he brought it up to get the opinion of those who are on the ground floor, who would know.

Regardless, however, everyone at the roundtable agreed that Narcan isn’t a permanent solution to the opioid epidemic. More funding for long term treatment options is a must, officials said.