Naloxone, or Narcan, has saved thousands of lives in Pennsylvania, but now police are worried about what happens after a person is revived from an overdose.
In a lot of cases, the person who overdosed can walk away with out being required to get help, deal with legal consequences, or even get checked out at the hospital. But the Department of Health hopes a new program will get more people the help they need.
Upper Allen Township police chief James Adams calls naloxone a necessary tool at his police department. But after hearing reports of addicts being revived one, two, even eight times, he has one question.
“What are we doing to try and rehabilitate these people,” Adams asked.
The Good Samaritan law protects any person who makes a life-saving call to report a drug over-dose, as well as the person who overdosed. But the downside is that person can walk away without being required to get help.
“We do care about the addict themselves, we truly want to get them the proper help, so we don’t have to be reviving them with Narcan,” Adams said.
Physician General Dr. Rachel Levine thinks the State has the answer, or at least a first step.
“What we’re working on is called a Clinical Pathway and a program for a “warm hand off,” Levine said.
A “warm hand off” is a facilitated referral for treatment from an emergency department or a doctor’s office to substance abuse treatment.
“The emergency department would then be calling the single county authority. The single county authority will actually send a professional to the emergency department and then work to get that person into the life saving treatment that they need,” Levine said.
But it’s not a mandated program. The person who overdoses has to willingly get help.
“It is very challenging and frustrating when a person is resuscitated and then leaves. But hopefully through this warm hand off program, more and more people will be going into substance abuse treatments,” Levine said.
Chief Adams said right now the only person who can mandate treatment is a judge. But to get the person who overdosed in front of a judge, they have to be charged. A bill was just introduced that would make it possible to force someone to get treatment, but it’s still in the early stages.