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A New Approach To Overdose Response

If you have followed along with us this far, you will know that a variety of tactics have been introduced in order to combat the opioid epidemic. The government has increased crackdown on malpractice in regard to prescription drugs. Authorities have seized record-breaking quantities of narcotics. And now… the city of Philadelphia has elevated its response when called to the scene of an overdose.

The Alternative Response Unit, or AR-2 Unit, has changed the way authorities handle and follow up with an overdose situation. Typically, in the event of an overdose, an ambulance will arrive to the scene to administer Narcan and stabilize the person in need. Paramedics will deliver the patient to a hospital- if necessary- and that’s about it. The AR-2 Unit extends the process a bit further.

The AR-2 Unit comprises six different personnel- two paramedics, two case managers, one social worker, and one epidemiologist. In the event of an overdose, the goal is not only to stabilize the individual, but to immediately connect him/her to treatment services. So what does this process look life?

AR-2 Overdose Operation Procedure

  1. An overdose takes place and 9-1-1 is called.
  2. AR-2 will respond with two staff members in a uniformed SUV along with a standard ambulance.
  3. Narcan will be administered if necessary.
  4. Once the individual is stable, professional staffers will walk the patient through treatment options and directly coordinate admission to a treatment facility- and provide transportation.
  5. Social workers will continue to follow up with the individual.

The program’s novelty will come with complications, but similar programs around the country have shown glimpses of success. In Ohio, Fairfield County claimed an 80 percent success rate in referring individuals to treatment facilities. In a six-week pilot program in Philadelphia, 6 out of 25 overdose cases accepted treatment services provided by AR-2.

When an alcoholic or addict feels “hopeless,” they are often referring to the endless cycle of addiction. Following an overdose, young addicts are released into the world with no solution to the drug problem. They are left to fend for themselves and inevitably return to their substance of choice. The AR-2 Unit considers the entire cycle of addiction- not just the overdose itself- and guides each individual throughout the process of finding treatment and beyond.

We will continue to monitor the program in its infancy, and time will tell if it makes a positive effect on the Philadelphia community.

As always, if you or a loved one are struggling, please do not hesitate to reach out. We are always happy to help point you in the right direction.