Why We’re Here
Nationally, opioid overdoses increased 30% from July 2016 to September 2017. Huntington is two years ahead of this trend, and has already seen the upward spike of overdoses plateauing, and is currently slowly declining. Huntington, WV had 1476 overdoses in 2016 which is 10 times the national average, including a single day, August 22 with 26 overdoses. The volume and frequency of overdose calls can cause first responders to feel depleted of sympathy and doubtful in their ability to make a difference. The City of Huntington is well aware of the ripple effect the opioid epidemic has caused where the individual suffering from substance use disorder receives help, but there is no widely used model for first responder assistance.
Compassion fatigue is a condition characterized by a lessening of compassion over time among individuals that work directly with trauma victims. Compassion fatigue impacts the ability of first responders to do their jobs safely. First responders that are adversely affected include firefighters, police officers, emergency medical services, emergency medical staff, county health professionals and foster caregivers. By changing the model for self-care for first responders, we are fortifying a sustainable frontline to the growing horrors of the opioid epidemic.
While we have focused our efforts for these numbers to be reduced on individual users, we neglected those administering the lifesaving assistance. This has negatively affected our first responder’s morale, wellness, family life, job satisfaction, mental health and client sympathy. As first responder’s coping mechanisms become overwhelmed, capacity as a caregiver reduces, tenure in the field shortens, and personal relationships deteriorate.
This crisis requires a new system for first response. The Compass project desires to build a model specifically geared for first responders that addresses their current needs, and their needs well into the future. We hope to build a roadmap for Huntington and other cities across the nation to be more proactive in the self-care of our first responders. We also anticipate that the model will be used to address compassion fatigue not just for the opioid epidemic, but for all crises that first responders face, including school shootings, natural disasters, etc.
THE BLOOMBERG MAYOR’S CHALLENGE OVERVIEW
The Bloomberg U.S. Mayors Challenge is a yearlong competition that challenges city leaders to uncover and test bold, inventive ideas to confront the toughest problems faced by cities today.