Portland Fire & Rescue to Begin Handing Out Opioid Addiction Treatment Medication

“A promising method to reduce overdose deaths,” says Multnomah County health officer Dr. Richard Bruno.

Portland Fire & Rescue Engine 13 at a medical call on North Williams Avenue (Brian Burk)

Today, Portland Fire & Rescue announced a pilot program to hand out out medication to treat opioid use disorder. Such medications, the most well known being buprenorphine, help treat addiction by reducing urges. (Buprenorphine is less strictly regulated than its cousin, methadone.)

The announcement, which WW previewed in this morning’s Murmurs, follows a City Council vote approving the receipt of a $400,000 grant from CareOregon, the state’s Medicaid insurer, to launch the program. The program will begin enrolling patients “at the time of the 9-1-1 response” on Feb. 5.

It’s an effort to address the overdoses that have skyrocketed downtown as the cheap, powerful opioid fentanyl became the drug of choice on Portland’s streets—and to avoid costly transports to the emergency room.

The city and county are working together on the program, and plan to track the number of patients who stick with it following enrollment. “Being able to provide life-saving medications for opioid use disorder at the time the paramedics respond versus waiting for patients to arrive in the emergency room or following up at a clinic is a promising method to reduce overdose deaths and pave the way for lasting recovery for community members,” said Multnomah County Health Officer Dr. Richard Bruno in a statement.

The new program complements another recent initiative from PF&R’s Community Health Section: sending smaller cars to respond to overdoses instead of 80,000-pound ladder trucks.

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