Post opioid overdose outreach by public health and public safety agencies: Exploration of emerging programs in Massachusetts

Int J Drug Policy. 2018 Apr;54:43-50. doi: 10.1016/j.drugpo.2018.01.001. Epub 2018 Feb 8.

Abstract

Background: Opioid overdose is a significant public health problem. Collaborative programs between local public health and public safety agencies have emerged to connect overdose survivors and their personal networks with harm reduction and addiction treatment services following a non-fatal overdose event. This study explored the prevalence of these programs in Massachusetts and the different ways they have been structured and function.

Methods: We sent an online screening questionnaire to police and fire departments in all 351 communities in Massachusetts to find instances in which they collaborated with a community-based public health agency to implement a post-overdose outreach and support program. We conducted telephone interviews with communities that implemented this type of program and categorized programs based on their structure, outreach approach, and other key characteristics.

Results: Police and fire personnel from 110 of the 351 communities in Massachusetts (31% response rate) completed the screening survey. Among respondents, 21% (23/110) had implemented a collaborative, community-based, post-overdose program with a well-defined process to connect overdose survivors and their personal networks with support services or addiction treatment services. Using data from the interviews, we identified four types of programs: (1) Multi-Disciplinary Team Visit, (2) Police Visit with Referrals, (3) Clinician Outreach, and (4) Location-Based Outreach.

Conclusions: This study represents the first attempt to systematically document an emerging approach intended to connect opioid overdose survivors and their personal networks with harm reduction and addiction treatment services soon after a non-fatal overdose event. These programs have the potential to increase engagement with the social service and addiction treatment systems by those who are at elevated risk for experiencing a fatal opioid overdose.

Keywords: Heroin; Opioids; Outreach; Overdose.

MeSH terms

  • Analgesics, Opioid / adverse effects*
  • Community-Institutional Relations / trends*
  • Drug Overdose*
  • Health Services Accessibility
  • Humans
  • Massachusetts
  • Organizations / statistics & numerical data*
  • Program Development / statistics & numerical data*

Substances

  • Analgesics, Opioid