In August 2016, St. Charles County paramedic Lisa Cassidy kicked off #StopHeroin, a campaign aimed at educating residents 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 people who were successfully revived with treatment options. One year later, Cassidy was named Paramedic of the Year by the Missouri Emergency Medical Services Association.
“Over the past year, EMS professionals throughout the state have followed Lisa and St. Charles County’s efforts in this arena,” said MEMSA President Ruby Mehrer. “The tenacity she’s demonstrated toward fighting this critical health epidemic is remarkable, making her well-deserving of this honor.”
Cassidy’s prevention education efforts target both youth and adults. She has spoken to more than 5,000 individuals throughout St. Charles County and beyond on the topic, leading each presentation with a powerful video of 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 help them navigate the process of enrolling in an in-patient or out-patient program.
“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.