With such a large number of K2 cases happening at once, it's requiring an all hands-on-deck response. Austin Travis County Emergency Medical Services, the Austin Fire and Police Departments, as well as emergency rooms are all working together.
Most of the K2 patients are being taken to the University Medical Center Brackenridge. It's the closest hospital to downtown Austin’s Arch, the so-called “hot spot” for K2 ingestion.
UMC Brackenridge is a Level One Trauma Center, meaning doctors there are equipped to handle the volume and severity of the cases coming through.
But even they say, “oh no not again” when they get a large volume of calls in one day. In the past 24 hours, doctors at UMC Brackenridge say they believe they've treated roughly 40 patients for K2 ingestion.
While they do have the resources, they say it is taxing for them and first responders as it takes away from other trauma patients who need to be treated. “There's a certain amount of frustration on all levels,” says UMC Brackenridge’s Dr. James Kempema, adding, “whether it's EMS or us working here, just in knowing the fact that this is a self - destructive type of behavior. This is not a result of a traumatic incident or accident, this is the result of someone using an illicit substance and now we have to deal with the repercussions.”
The Austin Police Department shares the frustration too, “It's inundating patrol resources and EMS resources alike,” says APD’s Lieutenant Kurt Thomas, adding, “it's a tremendous burden on our resources.”
Several emergency room doctors at UMC Brackenridge are working on a study about K2, and its effect on people who ingest it. They say they will make the findings public. A date has not yet been released.