Substance Use

Beacon Helps Harm Reduction and Substance Abuse Providers Reduce Overdoses

Trek Medics has developed the Beacon Crisis Response platform to reduce fatal overdoses by improving access to crisis responders

Overcome Emergency Communication Challenges with Beacon

The Problem

  • Despite the existence of Good Samaritan protections, many people are still afraid to call 911 to report an overdose
  • While communities around the country are equipping the public with medications to reverse overdoses, the only people who get alerted when an overdose is reported to 911 are police, fire and EMS.
  • Traditional 911 responders are limited in their ability to refer overdose victims to needed social services

The Solution

The Beacon Crisis Response platform alerts alternative responders equipped with overdose-reversing medications when active overdoses are reported in their area, allowing trained substance abuse experts to prevent fatal overdoses and provide more tailored care for persons with substance use disorder

Sample Response Workflow*

Potential Overdose

A witness to a suspected opioid overdose knows there is help available in the community and calls to request assistance.

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Response Dispatch

A dispatcher receives the call from the witness requesting rapid response, enters the witness’ location into Beacon and sends it as a text alert to the nearest responders equipped with overdose-reversing medications

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Crisis Response

Beacon assigns response personnel to the crisis, directs them to the incident location and keeps them updated about the status of the incident and other responders throughout the incident lifecycle.

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Confirm On-Scene

Responders locate the victim and update the dispatcher through Beacon, ensuring accountability and maintaining open communications should more resources be needed.

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Medication Administration

Responders determine if the scene is safe and then assess the patient for tell-tale overdose symptoms. Overdose-reversing medication is then administered to the victim. If the overdose is reversed, a life is saved. If there is no change in the victim’s condition, 9-1-1 is already en route.

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Intervention, Transport or Release

Where available, responders are able to offer referral services, counseling or transport to an appropriate medical facility. Or, as is so often the case after EMS reverses an overdose, the survivor leaves on their own.

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Substance Use Crisis Features

Easy Setup

No computer science degree required. Follow the guide and videos to be ready to start dispatching in less than 30 minutes.

Configurable Dispatch

Beacon’s flexible design allows organizations to dispatch responders manually or through automation; they can assign specific responders or crowdsource from a larger pool; and they can manage it all via the web app or the mobile app

Decentralized Response

No sophisticated call center required: Manager responders, create incidents and track operations through any computer or smartphone

Works with or without Internet

Beacon functions on any mobile phone, via push notifications when Internet’s available or SMS when not

Scalable Volume

Whether you have 5 responders or 500, Beacon can handle your volume through automated workflows and real-time tracking.

Performance Reporting

Beacon offers a full-suite of reports, including responder reports, incident reports, historical reports and case reports (coming Jan 2023)

Frequently Asked Questions

We do. Calling 9-1-1 is the best way to call for help in case of an emergency. We see this program as a “both/and” solution: “Call 9-1-1 and dispatch community responders.” There simply aren’t enough ambulances, fire engines and police cruisers to respond to every single overdose quick enough to reduce fatal opioid overdoses to 0 – which is our end goal. Some other considerations:

  • Frequency and rates of overdoses have increased dramatically since 2000, taxing many local emergency response systems to breaking point. We believe that community responders can work in parallel with formal 9-1-1 responders.
  • In many rural communities, response times for formal 9-1-1 responders are too long. Using community responders helps reduce response times dramatically.
  • New forms of overdose-reversing medication make it easier for non-medical professionals to effectively learn how to administer a life-saving dose in time to save a life.
  • In some communities, witnesses to overdoses are reluctant to call 9-1-1 for fear of legal repercussions or their own safety. Knowing that community responders with “lived” and “learned” experience with substance use disorder would also be responding could help to mitigate those fears.

Hopefully this is never the situation. If it is, we still propose that it should be a “both/and” proposition and not “either/or”. If the situation is such that 9-1-1 isn’t available quick enough, additional contact points for finding community responders with overdose-reversing medication will increase the likelihood of overdoses being reported while filling in the gaps among belabored emergency services.

Because we see these community-based networks as a “both/and” solution, if community responders don’t show up, it’s ok because a 9-1-1 response has already been activated. Nonetheless, getting community responders to show up when they’re alerted is crucial, and it’s also a challenge that volunteer emergency services across the U.S. solve every day. The solution comes down to strong leadership, having sufficient responders in a specific area, and aligned incentives. Sufficient numbers can be recruited and retained with a good strategy:

  • Recruit the right people – Ensure that potential responders are comfortable with a closeup look at opioid abuse and are properly trained in response protocols, such as administering overdose-reversing medication
  • Dispatch multiple responders – Create schedules for potential responders so two or more may be dispatched to a single incident
  • Offer incentives – Reward emergency responders and volunteers for their participation, keeping them active and evangelizing the strengths of the program

Overdose-reversing medication is preferably administered by or with a medical professional, but this is not always possible nor is it even necessary.

  • Many areas with high substance use do not have enough medical professionals to respond in time to save lives.
  • Research has found minimal risks associated with treatment followed by release.[1],[2]
  • Non-medical professionals can be trained to recognize factors besides overdose at an incident, prompting calls to 9-1-1 or medical professionals.

[1] Rudolph SS, Jehu G, Nielsen SL, Nielsen K, Siersma V, Rasmussen LS. Prehospital treatment of overdose in Copenhagen: Is it safe to discharge on-scene? Resuscitation. 2011;82(11):1414–8. [2] Wampler DA, Molina DK, McManus J, Laws P, Manifold CA. No Deaths Associated with Patient Refusal of Transport After … . Prehosp Emerg Care. 2011;15(3):320–4.

The reality is that it’s impossible to completely guarantee 100% safety for responders, whether they’re professional emergency crews or community members. But we also think the safety concerns should be evaluate more by probability than possibility. Read this blog post to learn more.

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Beacon Crisis Response is a cloud-based, do-it-yourself platform for response organizations that alerts, coordinates and tracks crisis responders using any mobile phone, with or without internet.

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