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State to review ketamine waiver program
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By Joseph Rios

In the wake of George Floyd’s death, other residents who have died due to police brutality have been an interest for some in the community — including the death of Elijah McClain — a young Black man who lived in Aurora.

McClain died last summer when Aurora police responded on a report of a suspicious person. He was wearing a mask and was known to do so because he felt cold due to his anemia. McClain did not commit a crime, but the person who called the police on him said he believed he was dangerous. He was thrown to the ground by Aurora police, and an officer accused him of reaching for his gun. Footage from the incident doesn’t clearly show McClain reaching for a gun.

Police used a banned carotid hold to keep McClain restrained, and he lost consciousness. Reports say a first responder injected him with ketamine, a tranquilizing drug and McClain was taken to a hospital where he died three days later.

One year after McClain’s death, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment announced on Aug. 22 its plans to review the state’s ketamine waiver program. The department said that over the past three years, ketamine has been used 902 times for excited delirium and/or extreme or profound agitation. The committee reviewing the state’s ketamine waiver program will include a pharmacist(s), ER doctor(s), anesthesiologist(s) and more. It will be facilitated by a Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment chief medical officer.

“Our agency will work with medical experts to study the use of ketamine in the field — as well as the state’s oversight mechanisms — and produce a public report. Patient safety and program transparency are top priorities,” Jill Hunsaker Ryan, executive director of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment said in a statement.

The review of the state’s ketamine waiver program is expected to last at least 12 weeks. Currently, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment regulates the scope of practice for emergency medical service providers. Providers can obtain permission to expand the standard scope of practice and allow paramedics to administer ketamine outside of a hospital setting, a release from the department reads. The department allows waivers for ketamine administration for pain management, extreme or profound agitation and excited delirium.

In McClain’s case, first responders alleged he wouldn’t calm down, leading to the Aurora Fire Rescue pushing ketamine in his shoulder.

Effects from ketamine usually take five minutes to kick in and can last for around 25 minutes. Usually, the drug is safe when used by trained medical professionals. But there are cases where residents who have been injected with ketamine suffer from side effects like cardiovascular issues, increased intracranial pressure and more.





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