October 23, 2019
Penn State University and the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency (PEMA) recently held a tabletop exercise that addressed first-responder and whole-community response to the ongoing opioid crisis.
The event took place last month at PEMA headquarters in Harrisburg and also included involvement from the Governor’s Office for Homeland Security and the Pennsylvania Department of Health’s Bureau of Public Health Preparedness, according to a press release.
The group said more than 50 experts took part in the exercise, which focused on a discussion about how local agencies can coordinate on response to overdose incidents. Participants were from many backgrounds, including state and local law enforcement agencies; emergency medical technicians; public health and health care professionals; and scholars from the fields of law, security studies, public policy and public health, among other relevant areas.
The group discussed challenges around overdoses, including resource sharing among responders; capacity-building for long-term recovery; effective integration of nontraditional partners such as spontaneous volunteers and donators; and public education and outreach to improve prevention.
The exercise was based on a scenario that envisioned realistic response challenges stemming from a sudden increase in opioid overdoses in the lower Susquehanna Valley over the course of a weekend.
“By addressing the resources used and challenges faced in collaborative actions, the exercise aimed to strengthen the whole-community approach to emergency response,” said Penn State officials in the release.