Are Emergency Rooms Failing our First Responders in Addiction?

By Sean Riley – Safe Call Now President & Founder

Tough subject as those personnel in the ER’s and we consider as first responders work hand in hand with those who serve and are saving lives everyday doing amazing work.  Sometimes the tough questions just need to be asked.

Let me tell you about a recent interaction I had with multiple doctors while trying to place a first responder into treatment. Doctors (most like any profession) do amazing work, have incredible knowledge but when it comes to their overall education and training on addiction, it kind of sucks. This first responder finally wanted help and turned to the system. This person was in acute intoxication and sought help through the medical system. I personally drove the first responder to the emergency room upon his request as the alcoholism was at such a level it was in my estimation impacting their health and wellness. This first responder is also a long time drinker, with multiple relapses and was drinking a minimum of a 5th of vodka a day.

I’ve placed 100’s of first responders into treatment over the years and have never ran into anything like I did on this day. I already had medical assisted detox, residential treatment and a sober escort set up for the first responder. Problem was, they were still too intoxicated to get on the plane. Standard protocol would be to stabilize the first responder, sober them up as much as possible through medication and get them on the plane. It should be noted that in the home town of this first responder there are no adequate treatment centers or detox facilities as they are all the ones where this first responder takes the people they encounter, arrest and commit.

In the ER the doctor refused a standard taper protocol to be able to get this first responder to travel on the plane due to the fact that if they took all of the pills at once (4 of them) they could overdose and die, too much liability for him. Really??? Doesn’t that go for just about any medication you prescribe? He had no response for me when I posed that question to him. I then asked him what about seizures and if the first responder could receive any of that medication to avoid a potentially deadly situation. The doctor again refused saying they monitor severe alcohol withdrawal through fluids. Again… are you kidding me? I asked the doctor if he was asking the first responder to go “cold turkey” which we both know can be deadly. He said no, but didn’t feel comfortable prescribing any medication which should be noted is used nationwide throughout the medical industry. Obviously the doctor did not like to be challenged and our communication broke down and we left.

Since the first responder was dry heaving and getting absolutely no help, I contacted the first responder’s general practitioner. Surely they would understand and want the best for their patient as they stated to me over and over. Oh how wrong I was. The GP wanted medically assisted detox but through one of their systems and not at a facility that treats first responders. The doctor also told me that they were not worried about seizures because they don’t happen for at least four days after a person stops drinking. That shocked me since I’ve witnessed first day seizures many times and there is medical literature out there to back this up. I called the doctor out on that and they retracted their statement. What the heck is that about?

The GP insisted on medical detox and then provided me with a facility they said would be covered by insurance and medically appropriate. I drove to the facility and found out, there is no medically assisted detox, they don’t accept insurance, they lay you on a cot, let you throw up and watch to see if you had any seizures at which time they would call 911. So doctor, you knew nothing about where you were sending us, knew nothing about their detox protocol and advised us it was safe. Your ego, arrogance and pride tried to to put one over on us. Needless to say we were disgusted.

You hung this first responder out to dry. The ones that are out there protecting you and your families every day. You approached this first responder as just another number and not a human being. You had to show us how smart you are and did not seek counsel from an addiction doctor. Did you not have the time or did you not care? As my good friend Jay Dobyns’ always says, “Stay in your own lane”. What he means by that is to stick with what you know, admit what you’re not good at, seek advice and make great decisions to save lives. The traditional medical system failed this first responder. Don’t let it fail your loved one.

If you, someone you love or someone you know needs help, call:

Safe Call Now:  24 Hour Confidential Hotline:  206-459-3020

For more information on the First Responders program:  Click here

Or call Shannon Clairemont at 661-466-6352 or Vanessa Stapleton at 304-651-3008