Outreach program is statewide model for leaving behind anti-overdose kits, conducting wellness checks

By: Nick Mordowanec | C&G Newspapers | Published October 23, 2020

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MACOMB COUNTY — Macomb County is setting a statewide trend when it comes to innovative approaches to prevent future overdoses.

The county’s Advanced Life Support agencies are the first in Michigan to carry naloxone overdose kits and leave them behind for distribution to patients and family members for future use.

This is part of the Macomb County Outreach program. In place for about two years, it is a partnership with Medstar Ambulance and its mobile integrated health program, as well as the Macomb County Sheriff’s Department and CARE of Southeastern Michigan.

Debbie Condino is executive director of the Macomb County EMS Medical Control Authority, a regulatory body that oversees all 28 countywide paramedics and in-field providers.

Condino said that the state authorized Macomb County Outreach program now allows for paramedics to go to the scene of an overdose 24 or 48 hours after Narcan was first administered, to provide follow up and outreach.

Along with paramedics, a sheriff’s deputy and a CARE peer recovery coach are part of that follow up.

“We actually go on unannounced visits back to that home where we cared for that patient,” she said.

In the past, it was only paramedics who would check in after the fact — “it’s kind of like a home care situation by a paramedic,” Condino said, where paramedics check for wound care, topical infections and then refer individuals to specialists.

Deputies are now involved to monitor the security and safety of dwellings where overdose victims stay, to confirm for example that it is not a drug house. They also conduct background checks.

Peer recovery coaches will talk to spouses, parents or other family members. Not all always want to talk, but most are willing.

“We are meeting them where they’re at,” Condino said. “The whole goal is to establish a trusting relationship so they will call us back, which they very often do.”

The trios have been working in a way that fits their schedules, Condino said, which for now is usually for half a day, once per week. CARE has its own grants related to peer recovery coaching and utilizes such resources.

They will drive in regular, unmarked vehicles to make the checks. Oftentimes nobody is at the site, Condino said, and a process will follow in which communication will be attempted to reach others who know the person in question.

This new system of leaving behind naloxone was a plan formulated prior to the coronavirus outbreak and the increased numbers relating to overdoses and substance abuse. Most in-person visits had to stop by early April and restarted in early September with different protocols and use of personal protection equipment.

“Our community paramedic team has been able to take our care, service and treatment to a whole different level, providing a unique and much needed service to this vulnerable population of patients,” said Kolby Miller, president and chief executive officer of Medstar Ambulance, in a press release. “This innovative approach and our great partnership with our community partners in the sheriff’s department and CARE, has helped us attack this epidemic head-on to move local residents toward recovery, instead of another 911 call.”