McDowell County Emergency Services was recently awarded an Immediate Opportunities and Needs (ION) grant from the Dogwood Health Trust to support their response to the opioid overdose epidemic in the county.

The $22,750 in grant money helped to purchase 17 Automated External Defibrillators (AED), as well as additional supply of Naloxone, a life-saving drug to reverse the effects of opioid overdoses. Both AEDs and Naloxone are critical tools in the fight against the opioid epidemic, according to a news release.

An AED is a portable, battery-operated device that a bystander can use. It checks the heart rhythm and can send an electric shock to the heart to try to restore a normal rhythm. Studies show that cardiac arrest is more common in patients with opioid overdoses in comparison to non-opioid overdoses and that there is a higher likelihood of survival when an AED is placed early during cardiac arrest.

Naloxone is an opioid antagonist designed to rapidly reverse opioid overdose. This lifesaving medication is able to bind to opioid receptors and can reverse and block the effects of other opioids. It can very quickly restore normal respiration to a person whose breathing has slowed or stopped as a result of overdosing with heroin or prescription opioid pain medications.

“Unless treated within minutes, a person suffering cardiac arrest usually dies because blood is no longer being pumped to the brain and other parts of the body,” said Adrienne Rivera Jones, deputy director of McDowell County EMS. “Quickly shocking the heart with an AED can save a person’s life after cardiac arrest. Now, thanks to this grant from Dogwood Health Trust, we have the potential to save more lives in McDowell County.”

EMS is partnering with local law enforcement agencies to provide them with Naloxone and place an AED in patrol cars on every shift. In many instances, law enforcement officers arrive to the scene of critically ill patients prior to EMS. They receive training on basic life support skills, like CPR, AED use, and administering Naloxone, allowing them to render lifesaving care when minutes matter.

These defibrillators will be roaming all over McDowell County in vehicles of trained officers, to deploy when they encounter a patient in cardiac arrest. The supply of Naloxone is also being used in conjunction with McDowell County’s Community Care Paramedic Program, which offers support and resources for overdose patients, according to the news release.

“Our board and team established a goal of reducing opioid overdose deaths in the region by 40% in 2020,” said Mike Yeaton, chief innovation officer for Dogwood Health Trust. “Strategies like expanding access to Naloxone and increasing education and outreach are strengthened when we partner with groups like the McDowell County EMS. When we increase access to lifesaving measures, and provide useful tools to experienced partners, we hope to begin to see a reduction in the number of opioid overdose deaths.”

Dogwood Health Trust is a North Carolina nonprofit corporation with the sole purpose of dramatically improving the health and well-being of all people and communities of Western North Carolina. Dogwood Health Trust became operational upon the sale of Mission Health’s assets to HCA Healthcare and is the recipient of the net proceeds of the sale. To learn more, please visit www.dht.org.

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