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Portland Fire & Rescue to begin pilot administering medication to treat opioid addiction at time of 9-1-1 overdose responses

Jan 17, 2024, 19:07 PM
Portland Fire & Rescue, Multnomah County Health Department, CareOregon and Oregon Poison Center partner to provide needed pilot program that will reduce overdose fatalities.

Portland, Ore. (Jan. 17, 2024) — After a vote of approval by the Portland City Council earlier today, Portland Fire & Rescue will begin a Mobile Medication for Opioid Use Disorder (MOUD) pilot beginning Feb. 5, 2024. The MOUD pilot is a collaboration between Portland Fire & Rescue (PF&R), Multnomah County Health Department’s Emergency Medical Services division, Oregon Poison Center and CareOregon. The program’s goal is to provide patients being treated for an opioid overdose immediate access to opioid use disorder medication and follow-up recovery services at the time first responders are responding to a 9-1-1 overdose call.

The City’s Community Health Assess and Treat (CHAT) team will give patients the option to enroll in the pilot program at the time of the 9-1-1 response, rather than using vital resources to transport patients to an emergency room. Providing opioid use disorder medication at the time of a 9-1-1 response to an overdose is an emergency best practice with proven results to reduce overdose fatalities, connect community members to desired services and keep patients engaged in substance use disorder treatment. The pilot program will operate during normal CHAT operating hours, Monday through Thursday, from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.

“Being able to provide life-saving medications for opioid use disorder at the time the paramedics respond versus waiting for patients to arrive in the emergency room or following up at a clinic is a promising method to reduce overdose deaths and pave the way for lasting recovery for community members,” said Multnomah County Health Officer Dr. Richard Bruno. 

Additionally, the CHAT team will offer to connect the patient directly to a treatment center that offers wraparound services for substance use disorder, including drug counseling, patient navigation and after-care services. If the patient declines to be connected with a treatment center’s services, the CHAT follow-up team will re-engage with the client to offer services and resources they need based on an assessment.

“We know that when people are connected with supports to get on the path to recovery, they are more likely to stay engaged in services,” said Stacie Andoniadis, CareOregon substance use disorder program manager. “It’s why we’re working so closely with partners to make access to medication for opioid use disorder (MOUD) available at every possible touchpoint that someone might have with the healthcare system—from their primary care provider to local emergency departments. This pilot project will help us close a critical gap and support even more Oregonians on their path to health.”

CareOregon is providing $389,577 to the City of Portland to fund the pilot program. The contract will last through June 30, 2025. The metrics used to determine success of the program include: the number of times CHAT administers medication for opioid use disorder; the number of unique patients served; the number of times CHAT dispenses naloxone; the number of patients referred to a treatment clinic, as well as the number who establish care at the clinic; and the number of patients remaining in the program after 30 days, 60 days and 90 days.

“Portland's surge in opioid overdoses has devastated our first responders and unsheltered residents,” said Portland City Commissioner Rene Gonzalez. “After visiting all 31 Portland fire stations in 2023, the urgent need for an alternative solution to how our city handles overdose calls, particularly in Old Town/Chinatown, became clear.

“The Mobile Medication for Opioid Use Disorder Pilot, led by PF&R’s CHAT nurses, will focus on reviving victims with naloxone (Narcan) and administering buprenorphine, a medication that demonstrates a nearly 600% increase in willingness to participate in substance use disorder treatment. Portland will be among the first U.S. cities using both medications during active overdose crises to save lives, and then block the most severe withdrawal symptoms.

“A huge thank you to CareOregon for their generous support, and to the collaboration of Portland Fire & Rescue and Multnomah County. Together, we're taking a necessary step to address this crisis with the urgency it demands.” 

Press Conference to be held Thursday January 18th, 1pm – 2:30pm in the Skidmore Room at Station 1, 55 SW Ash Street.

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