“Opening the door to somebody who has a chance.” – The experiences and perceptions of public safety personnel towards a public restroom overdose prevention alarm system

Bradley M. Buchheit, Erika L. Crable, Sarah K. Lipson, Mari Lynn Drainoni, Alexander Y. Walley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Background: Opioid overdose deaths have surged due to fentanyl in the illicit opioid supply, which causes overdose more rapidly than other opioids. Public restrooms are venues where fentanyl overdoses commonly occur. In response, some organizations have implemented anti-motion alarm systems as a prevention approach. We aimed to describe the experiences and perceptions of public safety personnel after the installation of an anti-motion alarm system in public restrooms at an urban medical center. Methods: From February to June 2019, we conducted semi-structured qualitative interviews to explore the experiences and perceptions of hospital public safety personnel who responded to overdoses in public restrooms with and without an anti-motion alarm system. We interviewed 11 personnel, with interviews lasting an average of twenty-six minutes. We conducted inductive thematic analysis to synthesize and identify salient themes. Results: Ten participants were male; the average age was 40 with an average time employed by the hospital of 12 years. Four themes were identified: Public safety personnel 1) believe responding to overdoses is an appropriate responsibility; 2) focus on their training rather than individual emotions when responding to an overdose; 3) view the anti-motion alarm system as an acceptable tool for preventing overdoses, despite technological challenges; and 4) report concern for potential unintended consequences of the anti-motion alarm system. Conclusions: Overdose response in public restrooms has been incorporated into the daily duties of public safety personnel at an academic medical center. Anti-motion alarm systems are an innovation with potential to improve overdose response and safety, though the technology warrants ongoing development and unintended consequences should be assessed. To optimize restroom safety in the midst of fentanyl use, more research is needed among first responders, people who use drugs in restrooms, and other restroom patrons.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number103038
JournalInternational Journal of Drug Policy
Volume88
DOIs
StatePublished - Feb 2021

Keywords

  • Fatal overdose
  • Harm reduction
  • Opioids
  • Overdose prevention
  • Public drug use
  • Restroom drug use

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Health Policy

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