The Emergency Department team at TidalHealth Peninsula Regional in Salisbury, Maryland treats approximately 15 suspected or confirmed opioid overdoses each month.
Many, unfortunately, are repeat visits and a growing percentage of those patients have serious addictions.
There are a number of state and local initiatives underway trying to curb opioid use, and to reduce the amount of people dying from their abuse of the narcotic. On July 7, TidalHealth Peninsula Regional’s Emergency Department became one of just four hospitals chosen by the Maryland Department of Health’s Center for Harm Reduction to participate in a revolutionary new initiative designed to curb opioid deaths.
Designated one of only 13 Overdose Response Program centers on the Eastern Shore — and the only hospital — the Salisbury ED, along with the emergency care center at TidalHealth McCready Pavilion in Crisfield, is permitted to supply Naloxone nasal spray kits to patients when there are concerns about opioid overdose and/or addiction.
Some of the other locations on the shore include the health departments in Cecil, Kent, Queen Anne’s, Somerset, Talbot, Wicomico and Worcester counties, and Dorchester County Behavioral Health Services. TidalHealth Nanticoke in Seaford, Delaware has a similar state-funded program in place in its Emergency Department.
“In the past, we could issue Naloxone prescriptions to patients being discharged, but we had no way to ensure that those were being filled,” said Angie Brittingham, Senior Director of Emergency and Trauma Services for TidalHealth.
“Now, as part of this program, we can provide Naloxone free of charge and without prescription to the patient or their support person, which guarantees that the drug is in the hands of those who need it at the most critical time,” she said.
Naloxone, also known as Narcan, is a safe medicine that rapidly reverses an opioid overdose. It attaches to opioid receptors and reverses or blocks the effects of other opioids.
Select emergency personnel at TidalHealth Peninsula Regional and TidalHealth McCready Pavilion, and pharmacists as well, are required to complete a special competency allowing them to provide the “to-go” Naloxone to patients, including training them or their support person in the proper use of the drug. Patients are provided written information, too, on the correct way to administer Narcan when needed.
“This is a huge change that has the potential to be extremely beneficial in our communities, and we’re very excited to have this option for our patients who really need it,” added Brittingham.