PITTSBURGH, PA (November 22, 2021) The Office of Community Health and Safety has announced that a pilot group of Pittsburgh Emergency Medical Services (EMS) paramedics have completed training to administer prehospital buprenorphine and began implementing the practice over the weekend. In September, the Pennsylvania Department of Health Bureau of EMS approved the City of Pittsburgh EMS’ Prehospital Buprenorphine Pilot Program, making Pittsburgh the third city in the country to implement this lifesaving intervention.
While all City of Pittsburgh Public Safety Bureau personnel are trained to administer naloxone (Narcan) in order to effectively provide life-saving rescue therapy to individuals experiencing overdoses, buprenorphine is regularly used by hospitals and physicians to treat opioid use disorder and opioid withdrawal, which is often experienced after naloxone is administered.
As part of the pilot, Advanced Life Support EMS units will be able to administer buprenorphine to patients experiencing opioid withdrawal regardless if that patient decides to go to the hospital. Patients will then be able to schedule a virtual follow up with the UPMC Medical Toxicology Bridge Clinic to have a consultation with a doctor within 24 hours to get a buprenorphine prescription and be connected to other critical harm reduction resources.
“The opioid epidemic has deeply affected so many cities and communities. If tools like buprenorphine exist, we need to have them in our communities and with our emergency medical personnel,” said Mayor William Peduto. “I’d like to thank the Department of Public Safety, Pittsburgh EMS and the Office of Community Health and Safety for their continued leadership here in our communities and nationally to provide real solutions to those with sustance use disorder.”
“Pittsburgh EMS has continually led the way, operating on the cutting edge of prehospital medical advancements,” said Public Safety Director Wendell Hissrich. “We want to continue to support our community members through field-based implementation of medical practices to save lives.”
As part of the expansion of public health-informed overdose prevention initiatives, the City of Pittsburgh will also begin distribution of fentanyl test strips, following Mayor Peduto's executive order in August allowing for the possession and use of these prevention tools. This has been made possible by funding from the Staunton Farm Foundation and their public health leadership.