Researchers from Indiana University's Prevention Insights are expanding their work to recruit and train citizen responders for opioid overdose events, thanks to a grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse of the National Institutes of Health.
The $213,000 grant will allow Prevention Insights at the IU School of Public Health-Bloomington, in partnership with REAL Prevention LLC, to recruit individuals from a previous IU study on Opioid Rapid Response System. The study's goal is to learn more about the participants' experiences responding to an overdose event, how they were recruited and trained in naloxone administration and their motivation to become cross-trained in naloxone and CPR administration in Clark County.
The team, which includes Cris Henderson, evaluation specialist and research associate at Prevention Insights and Dr. Wasantha Jayawardene, assistant research scientist at the School of Public Health-Bloomington, will then use that information to develop training and effective messaging to recruit and train citizen responders in Boone and Hancock Counties, which have the highest opioid overdose death rates, other than Clark County that also use the PulsePoint Mobile App.
"If current circumstances prevail, over 80,000 people will die due to opioid overdoses in 2025," Jayawardene said "Community-engaged, novel interventions are urgently required in order to change the course of this devastating epidemic."
The grant is an extension of a project Henderson and Clark County Public Health Officer Eric Yazel have worked on in Clark County Indiana.
"Too often, emergency responders in rural counties cannot get to an overdose event quickly enough," said Henderson. "We are working at the local level to cultivate greater support for cross training citizen responders to administer naloxone, which is safe and increases the chances of saving lives in communities with higher rates of fatal and non-fatal opioid overdoses."
Community-based overdose prevention programs providing naloxone training and naloxone have expanded dramatically since 2010 and have been promoted by the U.S. Surgeon General.
Using the PulsePoint app, which connects citizen responders to opioid overdose events reported through 911, more than 1,300 individuals were cross-trained in naloxone and CPR administration between January 2019 and July 2019 in Clark County. That resulted in 483 private CPR events (citizen responders responded) and five naloxone resuscitations by citizen responders. As of 2020, there are now more than 3,000 PulsePoint users throughout Clark County.
"As an Emergency Department physician, I have seen firsthand the devastation to a family caused by the loss of a loved one to an overdose," said Eric Yazel, health officer at the Clark County Health Department. "Enabling the layperson to rapidly respond and administer Narcan has saved lives and given patients a second chance at meaningful recovery."
Michael Hecht, president of REAL Prevention, LLC, said he is excited to be a part of the project and to contribute to this creative solution to the opioid epidemic.
"Opioid overdoses are such a significant problem, costing us so much in lost lives as well as medical expenses," Hecht said. "The Opioid Rapid Response System promises to reduce both costs by recruiting and training citizen responders to aid overextended emergency workers and get overdose victims timely and effective help."