MONTEREY COUNTY — Monterey County Emergency Medical Services (EMS) has announced the launch of a new program, in partnership with Santa Cruz and San Benito counties, to expand buprenorphine distribution by emergency responders to reduce opioid overdoses.
“In response to the ongoing narcotic epidemic, Monterey County has joined forces with Santa Cruz and San Benito County EMS Agencies in a tri-county program to enable paramedics to administer buprenorphine to patients in opioid withdrawal or following a near-fatal opioid overdose,” said Dr. John Beuerle, medical director of Monterey County EMS Agency. “The tri-county initiative is a paradigm shift in how we approach and treat addiction, and it provides hope and assistance to patients during a time when they need it the most.”
For an overdose, naloxone (Narcan) is a critical life-saving medication, but it does nothing to address the underlying demand for opioids. Buprenorphine helps reduce opioid withdrawal and cravings, and is one of the most effective treatments for opioid use disorder, reducing the risk of overdose fatalities by up to 50%.
“This is truly an opportunity to meet people where they are and overcome many of the barriers that people face when they need this life-saving treatment,” said Dr. Reb Close, CHOMP Emergency Department physician. “For years, our EMS teammates have witnessed the devastation that substance use brings to our community — now they have the opportunity to actively participate in a long-term solution.”
Under this new program, which began May 23 in Monterey County, paramedics may administer buprenorphine to certain patients in opioid withdrawal while taking them to a hospital, where patients are in turn connected to long-term treatment programs. Providing this medication as soon as possible not only relieves withdrawal symptoms, but makes successful recovery from addiction more likely.
“We are proud to be part of this tri-county, multi-agency, effort to address the ongoing narcotic epidemic that destroys lives and causes a lot of pain to families in our community,” said Teresa Rios, EMS chief of Monterey County EMS Agency. “This approach is not intended to just meet the immediate need for medication for individuals experiencing an opioid withdrawal or overdose. It is intended to remove the stigma that follows individuals who suffer from addiction and to create a path to substance use recovery.”
Anyone who is interested in treatment services for addiction should contact their medical provider. If they do not have a medical provider, call 2-1-1, Monterey County Behavioral Health Crisis Line at 888-258-6029 or SAMHSA’s National 24/7 Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP.