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A new specialized team is working to help our community combat substance abuse and get people back on their feet. The Buncombe County Community Paramedic initiative will not only provide vital assistance and resources for those in need of treatment, but also help reduce our jail population and save the County money.
Typically, when you call 911 for an emergency, a dispatcher will connect you with the appropriate emergency personnel. However, sometimes the emergency calls for long-term solutions, which is why Buncombe County began its pilot program for community paramedicine, giving 911 dispatchers another resource.
The goal of community paramedicine is to supplement traditional Emergency Services staff for individuals who have overdosed or are experiencing a substance use disorder crisis. Currently, this support comes in the form of a community paramedic and a peer support specialist. However, the program hopes to expand to more services.
Statistics show most people experiencing an overdose are likely to relapse unless they have resources in place to help them. Within a few days of your initial contact with community paramedics, a peer support specialist providing those in need with connections to resources such as rehab, support programs, focus groups, emergency shelter assistance, and more. From that point on, those specialists will be an ongoing resource providing long-term assistance for the road to recovery.
“This program is truly unique in that we don’t have an agenda to get people in trouble or tattle on them,” said Claire Hubbard, Community Paramedic. “We don’t want people to associate our program with the typical model for public safety. Our agenda is to provide care and support to those who need it, that’s it.”
There are multiple goals and benefits to community paramedicine. It educates and connects members of our community to much-needed support, will reduce our jail population, allow first responders to focus on large-scale emergency situations. And once the program is fully realized, it will create a network of support for Buncombe County. “The model we would like to move toward is to be more engaged in mental health response, having social workers, mental health workers dispatched through our 911 services to get the right services to the right patient at the right time,” said Tayor Jones, Buncombe County Emergency Services Director.
Community Paramedicine is currently a pilot program focused on substance use disorder support, food and shelter emergency assistance, and basic medical training like wound support. However, the goal of this program is to provide support in everything from mental health crises, deescalation, transportation, trauma assistance, rehab, and more. The more community partners we connect with, the more services community paramedics can offer.