To address the ongoing opioid problem, the IAFF – with support from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), the Department of Energy (DOE) and the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) – has launched this online series providing an in-depth understanding of opioid epidemic impacting the United States and Canada. This series is designed for fire service personnel and civilians. Each segment includes at least one video and corresponding podcast to provide more in-depth discussion and commentary.

Opioid Use Disorder: A Disease

This segment is for fire service personnel and civilians to get a deeper understanding of opioid addiction. Learn more about the short-term and long-term effects of this complex biological disease, as well as the physical, social and emotional changes in someone using or abusing opioids. Understand the medical definition of opioid use disorder and the difference between opioid dependence and opioid addiction.


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Treating Opioid Addiction

This segment is for fire service personnel and civilians to understand how opioid addiction is treated and the life-long recovery process.

Learn more about medication-assisted treatment (MAT) as a best practice in treating opioid use disorder, as well as the use of FDA-approved medications, evidence-based behavioral treatments and the essential role of community-based support services.


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Treatment Considerations for Fire Fighters

This segment focuses exclusively on special treatment considerations for fire service personnel facing their own battle with opioid addiction, including medication alternatives, best practices in substance abuse treatment and the unique role of peer support in a fire fighter’s recovery journey.

Guest speakers include two treatment specialists who work exclusively with fire fighters in substance abuse treatment settings: Dr. Abby Morris, Medical Director of IAFF Center of Excellence for Behavioral Health Treatment and Recovery, and Lt. Drew Kane, a fire fighter and credentialed alcohol and drug abuse counselor with the FDNY Counseling Service Unit.


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Responsible Approaches to Pain Management

This segment explores best practices for fire fighters interested in managing pain while minimizing or discontinuing the use of opioids.

Dr. Alan Gonzalez-Cota, a pain management expert and medical consultant for the IAFF Center of Excellence for Behavioral Health Treatment and Recovery, shares his perspective and lessons learned in treating fire fighters with pain management challenges as a result of occupational injury, overuse and trauma.


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Stories of Recovery From Opioid Addiction

This segment explores the unique journey of three fire service personnel living in recovery from opioid addiction.


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Addressing Substance Use in Your Department

Opioid addiction and other forms of substance use impact all members of society, including fire service personnel. This segment focuses specifically on how fire departments can support and respond to members coping with substance use problems using best practice standards in occupational health, as well as lessons learned from one IAFF affiliate.


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Situational Awareness When Responding to Opioid Incidents

This segment features two emergency medical services (EMS) subject matter experts who explore situational awareness for fire service personnel who respond to opioid incidents in the community.

Captain Alan Van Heck is a 20-year veteran of the Bloomfield Township Fire Department and a member of Bloomfield, MI Local 3045. Toby Frost is a captain in the Lafayette Fire Department and a member of Lafayette, IN Local 472.


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Managing Exposure Risks

This segment features two emergency medical services (EMS) subject matter experts who explore best practices in managing exposure risks for fire service personnel who respond to opioid incidents in the community.

Captain Alan Van Heck is a 20-year veteran of the Bloomfield Township Fire Department and a member of Bloomfield, MI Local 3045. Toby Frost is a captain in the Lafayette Fire Department and a member of Lafayette Local 472. Both are instructors for federal resources and subject matter experts on the topic of synthetic opioids in the field of fire and EMS.


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Community Approaches to the Opioid Crisis

Fire service personnel not only respond to the opioid epidemic on a daily basis, but they are part of the solution. This segment focuses on the experience of two IAFF affiliates that have taken an innovative approach to fighting the opioid crisis in their communities.

Guest speakers include Brian Nee from Boston, MA Local 718, and Rob Weeks, president of Vancouver, BC Local 18.


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Managing Compassion Fatigue

This segment shares the perspectives of several IAFF behavioral health partners to explore compassion fatigue, burnout and self-care among fire service personnel on the frontlines of the opioid epidemic.

Guest speakers include Dr. Suzy Gulliver from the Warriors Research Institute; Garland, TX Local 1293 President Bill Crews; Lt. Drew Kane, a member of the Uniformed Fire Fighters Association of New Local 854; and Indianapolis, IN Local 416 Battalion Chief Doug Abernathy.


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Content was supported by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences of the National Institutes of Health and the Department of Energy under Award Number UH4ES009759. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health or the Department of Energy.