First Responders Deal With Opioid ‘Compassion Fatigue’

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First responders across the U.S. are tiring of the unrelenting stream of overdoses. Seeing so many children as accidental victims of the heroin epidemic, seeing repeat patients and responding to an extreme number of these cases can lead to a certain weariness of it all, The Cincinnati Enquirer reports. “It’s upsetting and it’s devastating,” said Lt. Joshua Campbell, a Covington, Ky., paramedic. “They’re in gas station bathrooms. Some are getting pushed out of cars,” he said. They are in fast-food restaurants, homes, parking lots, alleys. Some are behind the wheel of a car, careening across a median. There was one recently whose car kept going, onto the sidewalk, up to a porch where kids were playing, Campbell said.

What used to be unheard of is common now to police, emergency medical personnel and social workers. Some have become more like counselors or pastors or caregivers interceding for children. They save lives, but they cannot force people into treatment. They cannot stop the overdose tide. Compassion fatigue means that typically caring people find themselves unable to empathize anymore because the frequency of the appeals for their help is so overwhelming. Ohio plans to tackle the issue with grant money from the federal 21st Century Cures Act. The state received $52 million over two years to help communities fight the opioid epidemic. Ohio will use some of the money to create training for first responders in preventing, recognizing and dealing with this kind of trauma.

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