Addiction & Overdose

Get to Know Simon Taxel

May 20, 2024

In May 2004, Simon Taxel received his first certification to become an emergency medical technician. Now, two decades later, Taxel is not just a paramedic crew chief for the Pittsburgh Bureau of EMS, he's a public safety diver, a medical specialist on the Pennsylvania Urban Search and Rescue Strike team, a helicopter rescue technician, and a Bloomberg Fellow. 

In his role as a front-line health worker, Taxel has had a firsthand view of the opioid epidemic and the impact it has had on communities nationwide. In 2017, Taxel witnessed a sharp increase in the number of fatal overdoses and communicable diseases in his community. He became involved in local harm reduction and prevention efforts. A few years later, he came across an advertisement for the Bloomberg Fellowship at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and decided an MPH degree was the best way to increase his impact.

In 2023, as part of his Bloomberg Fellowship, Taxel developed and implemented a program on Pittsburgh ambulances that offers screening for high-risk substance use to community members with non-urgent medical needs. The resources include tips for safe drug use, naloxone, fentanyl test strips, and referral or warm hand-off to substance use disorder treatment. The goal of the project is to identify at-risk individuals who are engaging with the healthcare system via EMS and offer resources before overdoses occur. He then scaled this program to train all members of the Pittsburgh Bureau of EMS. He's using his capstone project to evaluate the program's implementation.

Through the Bloomberg Fellowship program, Taxel has gained insight into the systemic factors that influence the situations and conditions in which his patients live. The Fellowship has made him realize that, ”no matter the impact my care has on individual patients, the necessary policy changes that will save the most lives will inevitably occur in the halls of the legislature, not at the bedside.”

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