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Trauma and the Opioid Crisis: Perceived Impacts on First Responders

NCJ Number
Date Published
December 2023
12 pages

This article by the Comprehensive Opioid, Stimulant, and Substance Use Program (COSSUP) and its partners investigates the effect of drug crises on first responders.


This publication by the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) Comprehensive Opioid, Stimulant, and Substance Use Program (COSSUP), along with Advocates for Human Potential, Inc. (AHP) and the Center for Health & Justice (CHJ) at TASC, discusses how first responders are affected by their work relating to the opioid crisis. This analysis of in-depth interviews with key informants captures perceptions of mid- to high-level staff members of first responder agencies working on the front lines of the opioid and other drug crises in some of the nation’s hardest-hit communities. The purpose of the interviews was to gain insights about the experiences, impacts, and needs of the first responder workforce and to inform the BJA about the perceptions of first responder agency leadership of the impact of staff members’ exposures to potentially traumatic stressors. This article summarizes information gathered from interviews with supervisors of nine local law enforcement agencies, two fire departments, and two emergency medical services (EMS) agencies involved in overdose prevention, mitigation, and response efforts. It describes how overdose response duties affect individuals and organizations, the measures agencies take to minimize any negative consequences, and suggestions on ways to better prepare and support the field to manage the associated stressors. Command staff members of law enforcement agencies discussed how frontline staff members react to new approaches that differ from their traditional response to people who use drugs.

Date Published: December 1, 2023