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Should EMTs Take Patients to Sobering Centers and Mental Health Clinics?

Should EMTs Take Patients to Sobering Centers and Mental Health Clinics?

(This content is for illustrative purposes only; any person depicted in the content is a model)

New legislation being pushed to empower EMTs may soon change the way first responders in California help patient get care while trying to ease the overcrowding of emergency rooms. A bill as proposed will allow paramedics to bring a patient to sobering centers and mental health clinics, instead of taking them to the ER. So should EMTs take patients to these alternative facilities to receive more specific forms of care?

Giving EMTs Options

When dealing with a situation, law enforcement personnel are permitted to transport individuals who are intoxicated or experiencing a mental health crisis to sobering centers or mental health clinics if deemed appropriate. Sometimes this is the best place for a patient, depending on the specific circumstances. However, under current state law in California, Emergency Medical Technicians (or EMTs) and paramedics must bring patients to the emergency room.

Some argue that requiring EMTs and paramedics to transport these patients to the ER is not only contributing to overcrowding in emergency rooms but also it is often not the best place for them. Los Angeles County Supervisor Janice Hahn is one of many who believes this is a “common sense” option for EMTs. Hahn states,

“The bottom line is that if people like you and I can take an individual to a sobering center or a mental health urgent care center, why can’t a highly trained medical professional do the same?”

Supervisor Janice Hahn has sponsored the new bill, hoping to give EMTs more options that better serve the individual. Hahn states,

“Our mental health urgent care centers and the sobering center at Skid Row were designed to provide humane, compassionate care, tailored to meet the needs of their patients,”

In cases involving law enforcement, this option allows police to choose specialized facilities instead of booking people in jail. This allows for people who may be dealing with alcohol, drugs or mental health issues to sober up and receive on-the-spot treatment without facing charges. According to Hahn, California paramedics and EMTs have their hands tied, and it is impacting hospitals and individuals.

Assembly Bill 1795

The new legislation is Assembly Bill 1795. This proposal would allow local emergency medical services agencies to lay out plans for transporting patients to:

  • Designated behavioral health facilities
  • Sobering centers that meet specific standards

Keep in mind, these patients will have to meet specific criteria in order to qualify. The bills recently amended language also states:

The bill would authorize a city, county, or city and county to designate, and contract with, a sobering center to receive patients, and would establish sobering center standards.

However, the bills current language also states that patients can instruct EMTs to take them to the emergency room and that it does not authorize them to initiate an involuntary detention of the patient.

This legislation also has support from Assemblyman Mike Gipson. He wrote an op-ed in February for the Compton Herald to support the measure. Gipson states,

“No one will deny that our emergency rooms are drastically over-crowded. Although they may be well-equipped to handle trauma, disasters or emergency physical health conditions—they are not as well-equipped to serve patients who have mental health care needs or substance abuse problems.”

Recently, Hahn herself planned a trip to Sacramento to advocate for the bill. And she isn’t the only one getting behind it. The bill is also co-sponsored by:

  • Los Angeles County
  • California Hospital Association
  • California Ambulance Association

Another supporter of the proposal is Mitch Katz, the director of the county’s Department of Health Services. Katz points out that not only could this give EMTs the power to take patients to a more suitable facility, but that these options can also be much less expensive than taking patients to an emergency room.

While hospitals, EMTs and paramedics are a crucial part of saving lives in cases of overdose and other emergencies, when it comes to getting people a means to effective treatment unique to their needs, there are better options. Giving EMTs a resource to offer substance abuse and mental health treatment options could make a huge difference in the fight against addiction. Anything that connects people with effective treatment is an important step in the right direction.

We want to hear what you think- should EMTs take patients to sobering centers and/or mental health clinics?

Communities in many other parts of the country have begun to work on better ways to connect people struggling with substance abuse or mental health conditions with specialized treatment. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free now.

CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135

Opioid Crisis Continues to Get Worse: Overdoses Increase Nationwide

Opioid Crisis Continues to Get Worse: Overdoses Increase NationwideAuthor: Justin Mckibben

These days it is pretty much impossible to In case you missed it, the latest news concerning opioid overdoses in America is not good. Just this week a report was released by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that only reminds us of just how horrific the opioid epidemic is. In most of the country, this crisis continues to get worse.

While we still don’t have a complete picture of the death toll in 2017 concerning opioids, the most up-to-date data shows that overdoses have spiked nationwide. Examining reports from hospital emergency rooms, the report compares the overall increase in opioid overdoses from the third quarter of 2016 up until the third quarter of 2017.

According to this data, opioid overdoses to increase by 30% in only a year.

Rising Overdose Rates by Region

In every age group, with both men and women, opioid overdoses are increasing, according to CDC Director Anne Schuchat. The Midwest has been the hardest hit region in that 12 month period. According to the CDC report:

  • 7% increase in opioid overdoses in the Midwest
  • 3% increase in the West
  • 3% increase in the Northeast
  • 2% increase in the Southwest
  • 14% increase in the Southeast

All this may not come as much of a surprise for many Midwesterners. When you look at the last few years, the opioid crisis has not been kind to these communities. Of the counties with the highest overdose death rates per capita over the last few years, we consistently find some of the top spots going to states like West Virginia, Ohio, and Kentucky.

Needless to say, these devastating figures aren’t exclusive to the Midwest. A few more examples include:

  • 109% increase of opioid overdose in Wisconsin
  • 105% increase in Delaware
  • 6% increase in Pennsylvania
  • 34% increase in Maine

Luckily, not all areas are experiencing record highs. Some states are actually fortunate enough to see a slight decrease in overdoses, including:

  • Massachusetts
  • New Hampshire
  • Rhode Island

Even in Kentucky, which has been a Midwestern state hit pretty hard over the years, the CDC analysis saw a 15% drop.

The CDC report does not specify as to why certain regions are experiencing overdoses differently, but one factor experts say has most likely played a key role is the availability of more potent opioids. The synthetic opioid fentanyl has been making its way onto the streets more and more over the last couple years, and supply of drugs like fentanyl has increased much faster in certain areas, which probably has a lot to do with the difference in overdose rates per region.

Analyzing Opioid Crisis

The recent report was meant to take a closer look at the opioid crisis by analyzing overdose reports in emergency rooms instead of opioid deaths like the CDC had previously focused on. CDC Director Anne Schuchat said these numbers lag behind the emergency room reports, and that the agency wanted “more timely information” to work with.

The data utilized for this analysis came from:

  • Approximately 90 million emergency room visits
  • Reports from July 2016 to September 2017
  • 52 jurisdictions in 45 states
  • 142,577 suspected opioid overdoses

That survey found an increase of 29.7% in opioid overdoses. The research also analyzed:

  • 45 million emergency department visits
  • Reports from July 2016 to September 2017
  • 16 States
  • 119,198 suspected opioid overdoses

This analysis shows a 34.5% increase during the same period, but those increases vary drastically from state to state.

At the end of the day, there are a lot of opinions on how to look at this mountain of information and see a way through it. But many experts are convinced that so far we have been failing those who are suffering the most.  Dr. Andrew Kolodny, co-director of opioid policy research at Brandeis University, states:

“It is concerning that 20 years into this epidemic, it is still getting worse. The number of Americans experiencing opioid overdoses is still increasing.”

Jessica Hulsey Nickel, president and chief executive officer of the Addiction Policy Forum, is one of many voices who are advocating for a more compassionate and supportive system. Those like Nickel believe that the key element to changing the opioid crisis is better integration of addiction treatment into a more comprehensive and effective healthcare system. Some, including Nickel, believe even emergency room staff should be better prepared to help get follow-up addiction treatment for people with substance use disorder.

Addiction isn’t going away anytime soon, and perhaps one of the most tragic parts of the problem is that so many people never get the help they need. Too many are afraid to ask for help, and plenty more still don’t know how to get help. Providing safe and effective substance use disorder treatment isn’t just useful, but vital to our future. So taking advantage of these programs and supporting expanded access to addiction treatment should be at the forefront of the conversation if we hope to break this trend and save lives. If you or someone you love is suffering from substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free now. You are not alone.

CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135

10 Reasons Drinking is the Worst

10 Reasons Drinking is the Worst

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Drinking alcohol and being intoxicated might have been fun at some point but there are so many reasons why it is actually the WORST. Once we crossed that line into our addiction, drinking and using drugs just wasn’t fun anymore but I’ve thought of the 10 reasons drinking is the worst; whether you’re an alcoholic or not.

10 Reasons Drinking is the Worst…

1. The hangover the next day (one of the many reasons I’m so happy I don’t drink anymore)

10 Reasons Drinking is the Worst

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2. Getting emotional and/or crying (usually over nothing or something insignificant)

10 Reasons Drinking is the Worst

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3. Dropping your phone on the ground or in the toilet (followed by freaking out)

10 Reasons Drinking is the Worst

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4. You end up peeing outside in questionable places (and if you’re drunk enough, falling over while doing it – this happened to me once)

10 Reasons Drinking is the Worst

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5. Drunken texting and calling people (99% of the time regretting it and not even knowing what you were trying to say)

10 Reasons Drinking is the Worst

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6. You become repetitive and are telling people the same things over and over again (I love you, no seriously I really love you)

10 Reasons Drinking is the Worst

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7. Falling down or breaking things (can end with you or someone needing to go to the ER)

10 Reasons Drinking is the Worst

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8. Starting fights with random people because they bumped into you (or some other ridiculous reason)


10 Reasons Drinking is the Worst

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9. Having word vomit in conversations with people you don’t really know (and saying things you probably shouldn’t)

10 Reasons Drinking is the Worst

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10. Actual vomit and getting sick (just EW)

10 Reasons Drinking is the Worst

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I’m not going to sit here and lie and say I didn’t have fun in the beginning of my drinking and using – because I did; but eventually it got to be complete misery for me. Looking back on the way I acted and all the questionable things I did in my active addiction really shows me how drinking was the worst (for me, at least.) When I drank, I did really stupid things. There was one time I was in a taco bell drive through and decided to get out and go pop a squat in the bushes and I fell over and couldn’t get up. I finally made my way over to a bush and pulled myself up and the next morning I woke up with what looked like a rash on my arm. Eventually, it turned into a black abscess on my arm and I could barely move it. By the time I realized it was time to go to the emergency room, they said if I would have waited any longer, they would have had to amputate my arm.

This is just a small example of where my drinking took me and to make matters worse – I had to get drunk again just to go to the hospital! Looking back on all of these things that happened on a regular basis when I drank just shows me that I can never drink or use drugs like a “normal person” ever again. Not that I ever really did in the first place, but it’s just not in the cards for me to be a normal drinker. I am a recovering alcoholic and addict and today I am grateful to be where I am in my life. I have done things that I’m not super proud of, but wouldn’t change anything in my life because it got me where I am today! If you or a loved one are struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll free 1-800-951-6135.

My Last 100 days as an addict

My Last 100 days as an addict

Many people (in and outside of recovery) believe that an addict has to “hit their bottom” before they are ready to get clean. I don’t think that is the case for everyone, though. Don’t get me wrong, things had gotten pretty bad for me, especially in my last 100 days as an addict in active addiction. But, I am certain that I was headed for way worse had I not gotten help when I did.

My last 100 days of active addiction…

It is hard to write about this but, not because of any emotions I may have been feeling; in fact I was quite numb by the end of my run. I say it’s hard to write about because my memory is a little hazy. Go figure…years (about ten) of substance abuse really takes its toll on your brain and, especially memory, or at least in my case it has. The good news, I have learned, is that the damage is not permanent; drugs don’t actually “fry” your brain like many believe.

The last 100 days of my addiction would put us somewhere around May-ish of last year.  Let’s see, what was I doing? I was holding down a pretty decent job as back-up head teller in one of the top five largest banks in the country. That means I had control over large sums of money on a daily basis. And I never stole any. Yet. I was living with my mom because I couldn’t afford my drug habit. I mean, my own apartment.

When I wasn’t working, I was constantly on the hunt for my next drug. The thought of being dope sick terrified me. Years ago, I had sought help in the form of a methadone program without really researching what it was that I was getting into. And just as ignorantly, after about 8 months on the junk, I up and decided to quit. Cold turkey. Yes, you read that right. Two months of being dope sick was a big enough lesson, I thought, to keep me from ever going back out. It wasn’t. I didn’t have recovery in my life then and it was just a matter of time before I started using again.

But I digress…last 100 days…OK.

Working at the bank, living with moms, spending all of my money, time, and energy on getting drugs. I started buying Suboxone off the street to keep me from getting sick. That was holding the opiate withdrawals at bay but, like a good addict, I sought out other ways of getting high. I started shooting cocaine and crack. I would abuse my Ambien prescription, taking sleeping pills when I couldn’t get my hands on the other stuff. I was desperate to not be stone cold sober – to keep from being aware of myself and my feelings.

Several key events had occurred leading up to and during my last 100 days of being an addict that eventually led me to the front door of a treatment center. One profound experience was my birthday weekend, in early March. It involved me “celebrating” with a number of different substances which then resulted in a trip to the emergency room via ambulance. The hospital staff didn’t know what was wrong with me. I was forthcoming with everything that I had taken but my blood tests indicated a different and more alarming problem. Nurses evaluated me for signs of stroke. At 32, I thought, I’m way too young have had a stroke. I was kept in the hospital overnight for observation. I found out that my tox screen indicated that I had almost every drug in my system. As an active addict, my motto was always “Go Big or Go Home.” At first, I thought it was funny that I had managed to hit virtually every panel of the drug screen. But in the following days, intense feelings of guilt and shame began to eat away at me. I didn’t want anyone to know what happened. If anyone casually asked me how my birthday was, I was hit with yet another pang of shame.

Around this time, my father mentioned the idea of treatment to me. This pissed me off. He was hardly in my life, who was he to say what I needed? I didn’t speak to him for 2 months. During that time, though, it was if a seed had been planted in my mind. I started to realize that banging dope in the bathroom at work and smoking crack in gas station bathrooms wasn’t “partying.” It was problematic, to say the least.

I toiled over the decision to get help. At one point I decided: either go to treatment or kill myself. It had really become that black-and-white for me. In what many people call a “God moment,” I had a moment of clarity: I would go to treatment. Once I had made the decision to get help, I felt a sense of relief and calm wash over me. I was weightless. It was a knowing, a certainty, that I was going to be alright.


If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135

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