Brentwood emergency worker honored for efforts with youth
Josh Stuart often finds himself watching YouTube videos to learn about the darker side of the teenage years.
Knowing the “ever-evolving” trends of how teens are trying to get high or hurt themselves, Stuart, a paramedic for the Medical Rescue Team South Authority, or MRTSA, for the last 23 years, attempts to educate anyone who will listen on the dangers of risky teen behavior and ways to prevent it.
“I have a totally obscure knowledge about the weird stuff that teens do,” he said.
Stuart's knowledge of trends among youths is part of the reason he was named the chairman of the Pennsylvania EMS for Children Advisory Committee, or PA EMSC, in November, he said.
The committee is composed of doctors, nurses and emergency medical personnel from across the state. They make recommendations to the state Department of Health for education and treatment needs of emergency medical services across Pennsylvania. Stuart has been a member for six years.
The PA EMSC has been funded since 1985 by the U.S. Department of Human Services' EMS for Children program, which is managed by the Pennsylvania Emergency Health Services Council.
During the last six years, the committee recommended and was successful in getting racemic epinephrine, an effective treatment for croup, placed on ambulances across the state, Stuart said. The process took nearly four years.
Other goals of the committee are to make sure there are guidelines so that children are transported safely in ambulances, said Stuart, 41, of Brentwood.
“You don't want them to be transported on mom and dad's lap,” he said.
Paramedics across the state need to be educated about how to work with children, Stuart said.
“We deal so much with adults, and we're so comfortable with adults,” he said.
At MRTSA, which serves Mt. Lebanon, Whitehall, Castle Shannon, Dormont, Green Tree and Baldwin Township, Stuart helps to educate his peers about childhood safety and risky behavior, Chief Todd Pritchard said.
“He puts us ahead of the curve. We walk in, and we're not surprised anymore,” Pritchard said. “He's an outstanding paramedic.”
For Stuart, though, his personal focus is on teens.
After responding to a call in 2006 for the death of a young person he knew who had died while playing a “choking game,” in which participants cut off their air flow to get a high, Stuart found education and prevention was lacking, he said.
“Unfortunately, there are a lot of good kids that try it. They think that it's OK because they think, ‘I'm not introducing drugs or alcohol into my body,'” Stuart said.
He now talks statewide at EMS functions and churches and to Boy Scout troops about prevention, as well as finding new fads among teens that are harmful.
Most paramedics at MRTSA have been trained by Stuart, Pritchard said.
“Through his research, he spreads the word internally, ‘Hey, here's what kids are doing these days,'” he said.
Stephanie Hacke is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-388-5818 or [email protected].