19 Days of Activism: First Responders weigh in on Opioid Epidemic

Nov 13, 2018 at 12:00 pm by Child Advocacy Center

19 Days of Activism

During the 19 Days of Activism, the Child Advocacy Center has two goals. The first goal is that the 19 partner agencies will sponsor press releases to educate our community about child abuse, with a focus on the impact of opioids and substance abuse on children.  

Here's how Rutherford County Fire Rescue helps:

First responders are usually the first to arrive at scenes of accidents or disaster. They are strong men and women who have chosen careers to help others in need, even on days when they don’t feel their strongest.  Firefighters, police officers, paramedics, EMTs, nurses, rescuers and crisis counselors are highly trained to cope with a variety of incidents, but often face unique and even dangerous situations on a daily basis.  One of the biggest situations first responders are facing today is the opioid crisis. 

Rutherford County Fire began responding to medical calls in 2010 as a first responder agency to Rutherford County EMS.  

In the time period between 2010 and 2018, the nature of calls has changed.  Early on we were responding to unresponsive patients and they were usually diabetic emergencies but now they are almost always overdoses explains Paula Todd, Critical Care Paramedic and EMS Coordinator for Rutherford County Fire.  Rutherford County Fire carries Narcan, the medication used to block the effects of opioids.

Unfortunately, one of the things that first responders are dealing with on these calls more and more frequently is the children involved. 

“It is very common for us to arrive on the scene to find the child has found the parent unresponsive and called 911 after unsuccessfully attempting to wake them” Todd continued.  “on those calls we have to deal with not only the patient but the child that is involved.”

We hear about the continuing crisis and the toll all the deaths are taking on the first responders, police, fire, EMTs and paramedics, treatment staff, nurses and doctors, families and the grandparents being asked to step in to help.  But we don’t read enough about its toll on children.  For many children around the US, it is not a situation that is left to the imagination.

They are the members of Generation Heroin, youths who have grown up among epidemic use of opiods in some corners of America and have seen their own drug overdose rates more than triple in 17 states since 2001.

From the earliest days of pregnancy children whose parents abuse opioids are at high risk. In addition to prenatal drug exposure, parents distracted by drugs and without help may be unable to provide children necessary care to grow and thrive.

Children and teens are also susceptible to accidental opioid exposure and misuse. Whether children are born suffering from drug exposure, their parents’ addiction struggle leads to toxic stress or involvement with the child welfare system, or they use or are accidentally exposed to drugs themselves, opioid addiction has a devastating impact that will continue unless something is done to curb it.

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