Local hospital to distribute overdose safety kits off ambulances

Gundersen Health System in La Crosse will be the first in Wisconsin to distribute the kits from ambulances
Published: Aug. 26, 2020 at 5:47 PM CDT
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According to Gundersen, opioid overdoses in the La Crosse area are up 100 percent this year.

As a result, the health system started distributing overdose safety kits in emergency departments six months ago.

“The kits included Naloxone, some resources for addiction in the community, pocket rescue masks for rescue breathing and instructions on how to use it,” said Dr. Chris Eberlein, a Gundersen emergency medicine physician.

Naloxone is also known by the brand name Narcan-- it’s designed to rapidly reverse an opioid overdose.

In 2019, around 20 overdose deaths occured, that number has already been surpassed in 2020.

With regulations changed, Gundersen is now able to put the kits in ambulances to distribute-- the first hospital in Wisconsin to do so.

“About 25-30 percent of overdose patients on scene that are treated often refuse to come into the hospital for a variety of reasons,” Eberlein explained.

Experts say COVID-19 has increased the number of people avoiding emergency rooms.

According to Gundersen, overdoses are cyclical.

“When a bad batch is in town of heroin or straight up fentanyl, we will see a run of overdoses and then they will go away for awhile where we might see none for days or even a couple weeks,” said Nick Eastman, the Gundersen program manager for clinical services.

For paramedics, the kits will not require additional training as they are already aware of opioid use, abuse, and overdose.

“Really it’s just an added reminder and some discussion on identifying the risk of opioid overdose,” Eastman added.

Each ambulance will be stocked with at least one kit starting in September.

The kits are offered for free with majority of the funding coming from a federal grant.

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