EMS lieutenant proposes small solution to midstate's heroin crisis

Written by Ben Allen, General Assignment Reporter | Oct 19, 2015 4:52 AM

(Lancaster) -- As the heroin crisis worsens in some midstate counties, a health care professional is calling for changes in state law.

Lancaster EMS Lieutenant Robert Patterson says his crews often end up administering naloxone to the same people frequently, after they refuse more comprehensive treatment when they're first brought to a hospital.

To solve the problem, Patterson wants to be able to force people into additional treatment.

The 302 process, as it's known, is already used for people who are going through a mental health crisis and are at risk of harming themselves or others.

As it stands now, those who are brought back to life using the drug naloxone can simply refuse any more treatment and walk out of the emergency room.

Patterson says drug users often need to be confronted with a difficult choice to get better.

"We don't want to see them go to jail. But this is a way that it keeps them out of jail, but they have to get help. And the end result is they don't leave until they meet certain parameters according to the judge's order," says Patterson.

"And until they accept that they're actually an abuser and they want to get help, that's where the issue lies. And usually you don't get help until you're forced to get help."

Patterson says his crews have treated 585 patients for drug overdoses in just eight months this year, calling it a significant jump from last year.

Some 163 of those people needed the life-saving drug naloxone.

He says they've responded to drug overdose calls in 22 municipalities in Lancaster County this year, showing just how widespread the problem is. 

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