Cooper physician honored for program that helps patients with substance-use disorders

Cooper University Health Care’s Dr. Gerard Carroll received the 2022 Nicholas Rosecrans Award for developing and launching the first EMS-administered buprenorphine program in the U.S.

Carroll is the medical director of EMS Services and division head of EMS/Disaster Medicine at Cooper University Health Care and Cooper’s Emergency Medical Services.

The prestigious Nicholas Rosecrans Award, presented annually by the California Paramedic Foundation, recognizes EMS organizations nationwide that deliver excellence in injury and illness prevention programming. The award is named after a toddler whose tragic drowning spurred EMS injury and illness prevention programs in Southern California.

“Dr. Carroll and the entire Cooper EMS team continually strive to develop innovative, evidence-based initiatives to improve care and save patients’ lives, and they are deserving of this recognition for their cutting-edge work with this buprenorphine program,” Kevin O’Dowd, co-CEO of Cooper, stated.

“Cooper’s EMS team has not only increased service to Camden residents and improved response times, they also pioneered a tremendous program that is saving lives and is now being replicated across the U.S,” Dr. Anthony Mazzarelli, co-CEO of Cooper, said.

Carroll and his team recognized that many patients who are administered the overdose-reversal drug naloxone on 911 calls typically refuse transport to local emergency departments due to extreme withdrawal symptoms they experience when revived from an overdose.

To help these patients, in 2019, Cooper EMS developed a program for paramedics to deliver buprenorphine, a medication used to treat opioid use disorder that also provides quick relief from the withdrawal symptoms. The use of buprenorphine on these calls relieves patients from withdrawal pain, increasing the number who go to the hospital and get connected with Cooper’s addiction medicine team for treatment.

A study authored by Carroll and members of the Cooper Addiction Medicine Division in the Annals of Emergency Medicine in September analyzed the effectiveness of the Cooper EMS buprenorphine program. It found that patients treated in the program demonstrated decreased opioid withdrawal symptoms and increased outpatient addiction follow-up care following buprenorphine administration and referral.

Based on its success, the Cooper EMS buprenorphine pilot serves as a model to EMS organizations across the country seeking to implement their own EMS-integrated bridging medication programs.