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Aurora councilman to introduce resolution seeking to ban new sedatives for paramedics' use

Resolution to be introduced at study session Monday as medical director seeks to introduce droperidol to kits
Posted at 2:12 PM, Sep 14, 2022
and last updated 2022-09-14 20:20:56-04

DENVER — An Aurora City Council member is seeking to ban the introduction of any new sedatives for use by Aurora Fire Rescue paramedics after the medical director who oversees the program said last month he would be adding droperidol to paramedics’ kits.

Aurora City Councilman Curtis Gardner plans to introduce the resolution in a study session next Monday before a potential vote at the council’s regular meeting on Sept. 26. If a majority approves the resolution, the prohibition would go into effect immediately.

The resolution, as introduced, would ban for three years the introduction of any new sedatives beyond what was already being used as of Dec. 31, 2021, if it is passed.

The resolution cites several of the reasons previously cited in Denver7 Investigates’ reporting by the AFR union president, who said his members are concerned about using any new sedatives – especially while two paramedics still face criminal charges in the death of Elijah McClain.
It says the Aurora City Council has determined a three-year moratorium, with monitoring on sedative administration by the City Council, on new sedatives in AFR protocols is the best path forward for the city.

If passed, the resolution would direct the Aurora city manager “to have Aurora Fire Rescue refrain from adding any new sedatives to its emergency medical services protocols for a three-year period commencing on the date of the passing of this resolution.”

The moratorium would expire Dec. 31, 2025, if it passes.

In an interview, Gardner said Councilwoman Danielle Jurinsky is cosponsoring the resolution and that he is thinks introducing a new sedative while paramedics are facing criminal charges for administering ketamine is a bad idea. He said he also has concerns about people’s civil liberties and being administered sedatives without their consent.

Gardner says he believes he’ll have the support of his fellow council members and support for the six votes the resolution needs to pass.

“A couple of years ago when I introduced an ordinance to ban the use of ketamine after the death of Elijah McClain, it passed unanimously from votes of both sides of the aisle,” he said. “So, I feel comfortable that the council will recognize the position that introducing a new sedative will put our firefighters at risk.”

The introduction of the resolution comes after Dr. Eric Hill, the medical director for the Aurora Medical Center, told Aurora leadership that droperidol would soon be added to paramedics’ kits. Hill said the drug is used by paramedics across the metro area, and medical experts whom Denver7 Investigates spoke with said the drug is safe when it is used in the appropriate context as a sedative.

Gardner says he does not expect Hill to be in support of the resolution.

“I certainly respect his medical expertise. I’m not a medical doctor, but I think we need to also recognize the optics of the situation. We need to recognize why now? We need to think about – just because everybody else does something doesn’t mean it’s appropriate for us,” Gardner said. “Other cities don’t have firefighters on trial for murder. We do in Aurora.”

He said he did not believe Hill gave them strong reasons for why droperidol should be introduced and continues to question why the decision was made.

“I don’t think it should have taken city council to step in. I just don’t understand the timing of this. I don’t understand why it’s needed now,” Gardner said. “I keep hearing, ‘Well, everybody else uses it.’ Well, everybody else used ketamine, and we see where we’re at now.”

Aurora Fire Rescue has called the drug “one of the best options … to care for some of our patients.” The department said in a written statement it had consulted with the consent decree monitor and others before adding the sedative to toolkits.

Travis Pulliam, the president of Aurora Fire Fighters Local 1290, previously said his members are hesitant to use the drug and that the union was not consulted.

Aurora Fire union president says members don't want to use proposed new sedative

“It’s almost like déjà vu now. They’re rolling out a new sedative that they’re saying is safe. It’s safe to give, and this will be good for the public and for firefighters. And we still haven’t got through the first trial,” Pulliam said. “Our stance, too, is if they’re going to give us a sedative, we need some sort of protections for our membership for legal aspects.”

Pulliam told Denver7 Wednesday he and the union support the resolution introduced by Gardner.

“We fully and unequivocally support this resolution and we appreciate Councilman Gardner’s and Councilwoman Jurinsky’s support of firefighters,” Pulliam said.

Aurora is also already using a sedative called midazolam, but Hill told the City Council in August droperidol has a “better safety profile” for patients, especially those intoxicated with alcohol.

Jurinsky told Denver7 last month that she was telling firefighters not to inject anyone with the new sedatives in case a person dies because of them.

“I made a bold statement, and I’m gonna make the statement again to the firefighters of Aurora: Don’t inject anyone. Don’t inject anyone with these sedatives and go home. Go home to your families. There are other ways that we could deal with this,” Jurinsky said at the time.

Aurora Fire Rescue said earlier this month it continues to welcome feedback on the rollout.

“We have processes in place to regularly review every use of a sedative medication in our EMS system,” the department said.

On Wednesday, Sherri-Jo Stowell, a spokesperson for Aurora Fire Rescue, said in a statement nothing had been presented yet to the City Council or staff regarding the resolution.

"As i know you are aware, AFR, along [with] other metro EMS agencies, depends on Medical Directors (physicians with expertise in emergency medical care) to develop EMS protocols followed by paramedics. In Aurora's case, department leaders have been working with the AFR Medical Director who has presented information to the Consent Decree Monitor, their subject matter medical expert, their Community Advisory Council and stakeholders to facilitate dialogue and create opportunities for education before adding a new medication to our toolkit," Stowell said in a statement.

"Other departments across the metro area already have additional sedatives in their protocols," Stowell added. "It is the standard of care according to medical experts across the country and it provides additional options to care for some patients."

Gardner says the firefighters he’s talked with about the resolution support it.

“I’m happy to have their support,” he said. “You know, we’ll see what the leadership of the fire department says. But at the end of the day, my job is to advocate for our firefighters.”