Overdose Response for First Responders

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. 

Illicit drug supply in Idaho

Idaho has experienced an increase in illicit drug seizures. The Oregon-Idaho High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (OR-ID HIDTA) continue to seize large amounts of fentanyl and pill and powder form. From 2021-2022, fentanyl seizures increased 44%, resulting in over 32 million dosage units of fentanyl seized. Read more about the illicit drug supply and OR-ID HIDTA in the 2022 Annual Report

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 


Naloxone for first responders
Organizations in Idaho may request free naloxone through this order form.
Drug overdose in Idaho
Drug overdose deaths (2022)
Drug overdose deaths involved fentanyl (2022)
Decrease in suspected opioid overdose emergency department visits (2020-2022)
Fentanyl safety for first responders

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 information

What is naloxone?

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

Why should I carry naloxone?

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.

Law enforcement agencies—learn how to promote naloxone within your agency with the BJA Naloxone Toolkit

Does naloxone enable drug use?

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

How can my agency get naloxone?

All Idaho first responder agencies can request free intranasal naloxone, brand name Narcan, through the following request form. 

How can my agency get trained in naloxone administration?

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

Are agencies allowed to further distribute naloxone to the public and their employees?

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

Is there any liability if my organization provides naloxone to individuals?

There is no liability for organizations providing naloxone to an individual at risk of an opioid overdose.

Does my agency need to establish a policy for a naloxone distribution program?

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 policies: 

Out-of-state policies: 

Opportunities to increase community access to naloxone

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

What are naloxone station distribution 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: 

What are naloxone leave-behind programs?

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:

What are overdose follow-up programs?

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.

Why should agencies consider standing-up a naloxone access program?

There are many reasons to conduct a naloxone access program. Here are just a few: 

  1. The illicit drug supply is changing. Idaho has seen a significant rise in overdose deaths involving synthetic opioids, such as fentanyl. Deaths involving fentanyl have doubled from 2020 to 2022. 50% of overdose deaths in 2022 in Idaho involve fentanyl. 
  2. 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.
  3. 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

Substance use resources

Select the links to access substance use resources and services: 

Find Help Idaho

Crisis center locator

Substance use treatment locator

Resource maps

Select the links to access Idaho resource maps for opioid and substance use disorder services: 

Idaho Opioid Resource Map 

Substance Use Disorder Resource Map 

Related programs

Anyone who takes opioids can be at risk for addiction, accidental overdose, or death. Learn about the risks of opioids and overdose prevention resources.
Idaho EMS guidance, education, and resources.
Substance Use Disorders (SUD) involved recurrent use of alcohol and/or drugs causing clinically significant health problems.