As fatal and non-fatal overdoses in Idaho continue to climb, first responders must be equipped with the knowledge and resources to address the rising rates. Find information on opportunities for first responders to address overdose in Idaho below.
Idaho has experienced an increase in illicit drug seizures. In 2021, approximately 125,000 fentanyl pills were seized from Idaho State Police—that is a 562% increase in fentanyl pill seizures from 2020 (Source: Idaho State Police).
Among these drug seizures, Idaho has witnessed a significant rise in illicitly manufactured fentanyl found in substances. Fentanyl is increasingly being mixed within a variety of illicit substances—including methamphetamine, heroin, and cocaine. This mixing can lead to a higher risk of overdose. People may not be aware of the presence or dosage of fentanyl within their drug, increasing the likelihood for fatal overdose.
Learn more about fentanyl on the DEA Fentanyl Facts website
Someone cannot overdose by simply touching fentanyl—it must be introduced through the bloodstream or through a mucus membrane, such as eyes, nose, or mouth. First responders that come into contact with illicit substances should take precautions to reduce illicit drug exposure, such as wearing personal protective equipment, using proper sanitary practices, and avoiding touching the eyes, nose, and mouth.
First responders are encouraged to carry protective equipment, such as naloxone and CPR face masks, to minimize adverse effects when responding to a suspected overdose situation. Carrying these tools will save a life.
To learn more about fentanyl safety procedures, download this fentanyl safety infographic
Naloxone, also known by the nasal spray brand names, Narcan and Kloxxado, is a medication used to reverse the effects of an opioid overdose and prevent death.
Naloxone will not harm someone who does not have opioids in their system. It is recommended to give a dose of naloxone to anyone experiencing the signs and symptoms of an overdose. Additional doses may be required to restore breathing if stronger opioids like fentanyl are present.
Learn more about naloxone from the National Institute on Drug Abuse
Naloxone is the first line of defense in an opioid overdose—it can quickly restore breathing and save a life. First responders can save lives with naloxone. Everyone who overdoses with opioids, whether it is with a prescribed medicine or an illicit drug, needs naloxone.
Did you know? 61% of police departments and 93% of county sheriff’s offices in Idaho have requested free naloxone from DHW.
Law enforcement agencies—learn how to promote naloxone within your agency with the BJA Naloxone Toolkit
Naloxone does not enable drug use. Naloxone is a tool that reduces the negative health impacts on someone who is experiencing an overdose.
People use drugs for varying reasons—such as experimentation, for social events, to cope with trauma or loss, or because they have a substance use disorder. Currently, fentanyl is getting mixed into other illicit substances—resulting in a significant increase in overdose deaths.
Drug use will likely continue to occur despite the presence or absence of naloxone. Therefore, having naloxone on-hand will reduce the risk of fatal overdose and death for the person using opioids.
This concept is known as harm reduction. Harm reduction aims to “meet people where they are at” and promote the health and safety of people who use drugs until they are ready to explore paths to recovery.
First responders can save lives amongst those most vulnerable to overdose death—the people who experienced a non-fatal overdose—by distributing doses of naloxone at the scene of a suspected overdose.
Learn more about harm reduction and how it can be used among first responders
DHW offers two options for Idaho first responders to receieve naloxone administration training:
Recorded training. DHW created a virtual naloxone administration training for Idaho first responders. Select the link to access the training video.
Live training. Through the continued partnership with the seven public health districts, free in-person and online naloxone trainings are available first responder agencies. Select the link to access your local public health district website through the Idaho Opioid Resource Map.
Naloxone distribution information
Yes. Naloxone can be distributed by organizations to people who may need it, including to their employees and the public.
In 2021, Idaho Statute 54-1733B was revised to expand access to the life-saving medication, naloxone. Under the revised statute, Idaho first responder agencies acting in good faith are permitted to dispense naloxone to any person. To learn more about the recent policy changes and how it expands naloxone distribution within Idaho, please refer to the following policy brief.
There is no liability for organizations providing naloxone to an individual at risk of an opioid overdose.
DHW encourages Idaho EMS agencies to establish policies and procedures for naloxone distribution programs to maintain clarity and accuracy in program implementation.
Examples of naloxone distribution program policies and guidance are listed below:
- Idaho Falls Fire Department Naloxone Leave-Behind Program Policy
- Pocatello Fire Department/Bannock County Ambulance Naloxone Leave-Behind Program Policy
- Boundary Ambulance System Overdose Follow-Up Program Policy
There are many ways to address the overdose epidemic in Idaho--including increasing access to naloxone, the medication that reverses an opioid overdose.
What are naloxone access programs? Naloxone access programs aim to increase access to naloxone to community members and patients who recently experienced an overdose. As a rural state, Idaho EMS response times vary—with some response times as long as 45 minutes. Due to the time-sensitive nature of opioid overdose, patients may suffer severe brain injuries or death if not treated quickly. Distributing naloxone to at-risk patients and their loved ones can reduce overdose death.
Click the link to learn more about how take-home naloxone programs effectively reduce overdose death and have limited impacts on drug use levels.
Below are example programs to increase community access to naloxone:
|program||time commitment||workflow||benefit||program in idaho?|
|Naloxone Station Distribution Program||1-2 hours/week||Distribute naloxone with wall-mounted box||Community members have access to naloxone to prevent overdose death||Yes|
|Naloxone Leave Behind Program||3-5 hours/week||Distribute naloxone at initial visit||Individual/family has naloxone in case of subsequent overdose||Yes|
|Overdose Follow-Up Program||3-5 hours/week||Distribute naloxone after ED visit||Individual/family has naloxone in case of subsequent overdose||Yes|
Naloxone access programs
Naloxone station distribution programs are an easy and effective method to distribute naloxone to community members.
Workflow: EMS agencies will mount a naloxone kit distribution box outside of the station and fill the box with Narcan kits. EMS agencies will monitor Narcan kit distribution within the community and report distribution to IDHW.
Benefit: Naloxone station distribution programs provide access to free naloxone to community members in a discreet and non-stigmatizing way. The program is low-risk and high reward--it requires minimal planning and reporting, but offers life-saving medication to community members concerned about the safety of their loved ones.
Did you know? Several EMS agencies in Idaho, including Idaho Falls Fire Department, have installed wall-mounted distribution boxes to provide naloxone kits to community members.
Find examples of naloxone station distribution programs below:
A naloxone leave-behind program is commonly conducted among first responder agencies to increase access to naloxone and behavioral health resources.
Workflow: After stabilizing the patient experiencing a suspected overdose, Idaho EMS agencies are encouraged to leave a naloxone kit with the patient or a loved one. Click the link to access the naloxone leave-behind infographic.
Benefit: According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse, community and first responder naloxone distribution programs have shown decreases in drug overdose deaths by 11-21%. Select the link to learn more about how increasing naloxone access can impact your community
Find examples of EMS naloxone leave-behind programs here:
- Salt Lake County, Utah: “Public Safety Agencies Encourage Residents to Learn About Naloxone”
- Whatcom County, Washington: “Narcan Leave Behind Program”
- Tacoma, Washington: “EMS and Fire Naloxone “Leave Behind” Programs”
- Nogales, Arizona: “Nogales Fire Department Offers Free Naloxone Kits to Anyone in San
Overdose follow-up programs are an innovative approach to providing medical care and resources to overdose patients.
Workflow: Overdose follow-up programs allow EMS providers and applicable partners, such as mental health and substance use disorder treatment professionals, to follow up with overdose patients upon discharge from an emergency department to provide doses of naloxone and substance use disorder information. This program is best suited for agencies interested in starting a community health EMS (CHEMS) program or agencies with existing CHEMS programs.
Benefits: Overdose follow-up home visits provide an opportunity for EMS providers to give resources and support to community members struggling with substance use. Brief interventions, through overdose follow-up programs, have shown to significantly increase patient connection to recovery.
Click the link to learn more about how an Ohio community paramedicine program successfully connected 79% of overdose patients to treatment.
Did you know? In 2022, Boundary Ambulance System (BAS) stood-up an overdose follow-up program to provide information and resources to patients who recently experienced an overdose. Access the link to learn about the BAS Naloxone Leave Behind Program.
There are many reasons to conduct a naloxone access program. Here are just a few:
- The illicit drug supply is changing. Idaho has seen a significant rise in overdose deaths involving synthetic opioids, such as fentanyl. Deaths involving synthetic opioids has more than doubled in 2021 compared to 2020 data and now account for close to 50% of all overdose deaths.
- Increasing access to naloxone saves lives. Research indicates overdose survivors are at risk for repeated overdoses. Providing free naloxone to community members can decrease the risk of death from future overdoses.
- Action can reduce burnout. If current processes for responding to suspected drug overdoses are resulting in frustration, compassion fatigue, or burnout, change may be needed. A nationwide survey indicated that 71.4% of the EMS providers who provided leave-behind materials to patients believed they made a positive impact. Starting an overdose response pilot project within your agency can increase job satisfaction and community impact
First responder substance use and mental health resources
Select the links to access mental health resources and services: