Skip to main content

5 Minutes to Help: Ending the Stigma Surrounding Substance Use Disorder

Emergency medical services (EMS) in New Jersey treat an average of 37 suspected opioid overdose patients daily. To the New Jersey Office of EMS, this is 37 chances a day to positively impact the lives of those in need. A dramatic increase in overdose deaths in recent years has necessitated the development of approaches that go beyond reversing overdoses and provide opportunities and support for harm reduction, prevention, and long-term recovery.

Timothy Seplaki with the Office of EMS (OEMS) has committed his work to end the opioid epidemic and stigma surrounding substance use disorder (SUD) and mental health. Seplaki, also chair of the Opioid and SUD Ad Hoc Committee with the National Association of State EMS Officials (NASEMSO), noticed gaps throughout his career in the education around treatment options and recovery resources for those living with SUD. With EMS providers often being the only medical professionals patients will interact with after an overdose, their role of connecting patients with the help they need in addition to treating the physical symptoms of overdose is increasingly important.

Timothy Seplaki, center (Photo: ImageTrend)

“EMS clinicians have an exclusive opportunity to interact with patients at their most vulnerable time, when only that clinician has access, making it an unparalleled chance to invoke a change in that person’s life,” says Seplaki. “It is imperative that EMS recognizes its critical role in seizing that opportunity.”

5 Minutes to Help

To deliver this critical education to their EMS providers, the OEMS formed the 5 Minutes to Help program, a 4-hour training that teaches ways of connecting patients to treatment and harm-reduction resources, getting them on the road to recovery and ultimately saving lives in the community and reducing the strain on EMS. Seplaki led collaborative efforts to form partnerships and establish the program aimed at improving the care and response to overdose patients and those who suffer from SUD.

Since 5 Minutes to Help was initiated in 2019, more than 600 EMS providers have participated in the program, and more than 100 instructors have been trained to teach it. In the last year there has been a 250% increase in classes taught. Additionally, the hourlong self-guided introduction video to the program has had more than 1000 registered attendees.

To further its collaborative efforts, the OEMS recently partnered with the New Jersey attorney general’s office to host 6 1-day summits to combine their Operation Helping Hand training for law enforcement with the 5 Minutes to Help program throughout 2022. The goal of this collaboration is to bring EMS and law enforcement together to break down the stigma surrounding SUD.

The program utilizes ImageTrend software to track data related to overdoses and integrate with other government systems throughout the state to identify trends and promote a unified front against the epidemic. Using the documented data, high-impact areas can be mapped to direct interventions and resources to communities that need them most.

Provider First

The level of uncertainty and stress brought on by the opioid epidemic, in addition to the increasing levels of strain and trauma EMS providers already face, has brought awareness to the urgent need for training that offers effective ways to mitigate these impacts and provide the tools necessary for responders to manage their own mental health and wellness. The OEMS offers training to help their providers better care for themselves and manage the stressors they experience daily. Breaking the stigma around provider mental health and wellness, as well as the stigma around SUD, allows EMS to be better care providers in their communities.

“To take care of the patient, you must take care of the provider first. It is important that EMS clinicians understand their own vulnerabilities,” Seplaki says. “EMS respond to calls for help every day; EMS clinicians are human and should know it’s OK for them to ask for help as well. Whether it be work or home stresses, EMS experiences critical incidents the public never sees. By identifying their own trauma, EMS clinicians will be better armed to respond to others’ calls for help.”

Seplaki and the OEMS received a 2022 ImageTrend Hooley Award in the Service category. The Hooley Awards recognize innovators and thought leaders, honoring their involvement, creativity, and passion, and were founded to acknowledge their contributions in innovation and excellence. The Hooley Awards finalists were celebrated and the winners announced during the 14th annual ImageTrend Connect Conference in July.

The latest and greatest news

From ImageTrend

Check out all the newest ImageTrend has to offer

Back to top