City health officials today provided status updates to the 18 recommendations made by The Mayor’s Task Force to Combat the Opioid Epidemic.

The Philadelphia Fire Department plays a critical role in responding to this crisis. Here are seven things to know:

  1. PFD firefighters, paramedics and EMTs respond to 911 calls reporting overdoses. In 2017, our members administered more than 5,000 doses of naloxone, the opioid-reversal drug commonly called Narcan. That’s a 33 percent increase over 2016.
  2. Overdose calls make up only 5 percent of the Fire Department’s nearly 297,000 annual ambulance runs. Overdoses include all types of substances, not just opioids.
  3. Fire Commissioner Adam K. Thiel, EMS Medical Director Dr. Crawford Mechem, EMS Deputy Chief Jeremiah Laster and EMS Deputy Chief Diane Schweitzer served on the Mayor’s Task Force.
  4. In 2017, Commissioner Thiel traveled with other city officials to visit harm reduction sites – sometimes called safe-injection sites – in Seattle and Vancouver, Canada. A brief report on the visit is available below.
  5. The PFD is starting a dedicated overdose response unit that consists of EMS personnel, a social worker and certified recovery specialist. If an individual who has overdosed refuses transport to a hospital, the social worker and certified recovery specialist would try to get the person to access treatment, naloxone, and overdose education. When not responding to overdose calls, the unit will follow up on previous cases and engage other key community members. This response unit is expected to be fully active by mid-summer.
  6. The PFD continues to work with our partners in the Health Department and other agencies across the city to find the best ways to address this issue.
  7. Naloxone has become more widely available and is carried by Philadelphia Police, SEPTA Police and community members. This has reduced the amount of naloxone that otherwise might have been administered by the Fire Department.