On August 1 of last year, Paramedic Lisa Cassidy kicked off #StopHeroin, a campaign aimed at educating residents of St. Charles County about the severity of the opioid crisis in their community. In the months that followed, she was instrumental in the development of a collaborative program designed to link those successfully revived with treatment options. This week, nearly one year after her efforts began, Cassidy was named Paramedic of the Year by the Missouri Emergency Medical Services Association at the organization’s annual conference in Branson.
“Over the past year, EMS professionals throughout the state have followed Lisa and St. Charles County’s efforts in this arena. The tenacity she’s demonstrated toward fighting this critical health epidemic is remarkable, making her well-deserving of this honor,” said MEMSA President Ruby Mehrer.
Cassidy’s prevention education efforts have targeted both youth and adults. She’s spoken to more than 5,000 individuals throughout St. Charles County and beyond on the topic, leading each presentation with a raw, powerful video that gives viewers a glimpse at what transpires during an overdose call.
Later, she spearheaded the development of the Substance Use Recovery Response Team [SURRT], a collaborative effort between the Ambulance District and treatment providers in the region. Under the program, those successfully revived following a heroin or opioid overdose are provided a packet of treatment resources, and offered an opportunity for one-on-one discussion with Cassidy or another of the District’s Mobile Integrated Health Paramedics, who will help them navigate the process of enrolling into an in-patient or out-patient program. From SURRT’s inception through mid-July, 69 individuals agreed to the follow-up visit, and 37 ultimately made the decision to enter treatment.
“Traditionally, EMS is thought of as a reactive industry, but programs like #StopHeroin and SURRT are helping redefine the Ambulance District’s role in the community,” said Chief Taz Meyer. “We could not ask for a more passionate advocate to head this programming than Lisa – she identified needs, developed plans, and worked tirelessly to bring them online.”
The prevention initiatives and treatment programming come at a pivotal time for the region, as overdose call volume continues to rise. In St. Charles County, Paramedics responded to 426 overdose calls in 2016. Thus far in 2017, they have seen an increase of 20 percent year to date.