Sussex County to receive reimbursement for Narcan training, education by EMS

 

Sussex County EMS Deputy Director Jeff Cox addresses county council.

GEORGETOWN – Sussex County paramedics frequently are foot soldiers in the drug epidemic battleground.

“Paramedics are at the ground zero of the opioid epidemic,” said Sussex County Emergency Management Services Deputy Director Jeff Cox. “Two years ago, we had 440 Narcan administrations to under-responsive, not-breathing opioid overdoses. We had 78 deaths that year.”

In life-saving efforts, county EMS personnel have been offering their expertise/training in administration of Narcan (naloxone) to law enforcement and educating civic entities. The county has absorbed these costs.

“Throughout all of this we have been the lead agency in educating law enforcement and community groups on the opioid epidemic and on Narcan administration,” said Mr. Cox. “We have kind of been doing that on our own.”

That will change effective July 1 of this year.

Sussex County Council at its May 15 meeting approved a memorandum of understanding with the Delaware Health and Social Services’ Division of Public Health/Office of EMS for 100-percent reimbursement of direct costs in exchange for SCEMS personnel teaching Narcan administration to public safety officers and basic life support ambulance services.

The MOU will allow the county to receive the federal pass-through grant funding from the Centers for Disease Control up to $30,000 for staffing, plus $3,000 for equipment and supplies needed to teach these different classes.

The $33,000 is the maximum reimbursement amount from July 1, 2018 through June 30, 2019.

“At this point, SCEMS has been absorbing the cost of these endeavors. This MOU will allow us cost recovery for what we are already doing,” Mr. Cox said.

The training, exclusive to Sussex County, will include prison guards and other law enforcement agencies. County EMS is also speaking to civic organizations about the opioid epidemic and what’s being done.

“It is predominantly for the prison. They have been waiting for us to the get the MOU. We will be teaching prison guards about opioid Narcan administration,” said Mr. Cox. “We will be the only county entering into the MOU. It was offered to New Castle that turned it down for political reasons. Kent County is working on it, but not very active.”

County council voted 5-0 in approving the MOU. “It is a great program, ‘yes,’” said county councilman Irwin “I.G.” Burton in casting his vote.

Sussex County Councilman Irwin “I.G.” Burton, left, looks on as Samuel Wilson questions the use of Narcan in the overall success in the war on drugs.

Councilman Samuel Wilson Jr., R-Georgetown, voted for approval of the MOU, but voiced some reservations.

“Do you believe that using Narcan is going to cut back on the use of drugs?” Mr. Wilson asked.

“I do not,” said Mr. Cox. “However, we are faced with choice. And the choice is that for whatever reason they chose to use drugs, the overdose happened and … it is to help save the people when they overdose.”

“In other words, things are not going to get any better, is that what you are saying?” Mr. Wilson asked. “They just continue to keep on doing it.”

“It is not going to better based on this MOU. But it will help us save lives,” said Mr. Cox. “It is a choice.”

Mr. Wilson suggested Narcan does not address the root of the problem. He said programs such as Teen Challenge, which accentuates faith-based lifestyle change, are better suited to confront the opioid epidemic.

“They take them in for a while, and the first thing you know they change their way of living,” said Mr. Wilson. “So that might be the way we should go.”

“Understood,” said Mr. Cox. “But our little EMS part of the big picture … is to respond.”

News Editor Glenn Rolfe can be reached at grolfe@newszap.com

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