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Community Paramedicine: Breaking the Overdose Cycle and Beyond


Buncombe County Emergency Services is making strides in breaking the overdose cycle, connecting over 195 overdoses with peer support resources since the launch of the pilot Community Paramedic and Post Overdose Response Team. This unique and evolving healthcare model allows paramedics to operate in expanded roles to help our community reduce overdose deaths, and also offer support and resources immediately that are not normally available on the scene of a 911 call. The collaboration combines emergency response with long-term solutions, giving 911 dispatchers another resource to help our county.

Buncombe’s community paramedics team is a six-person team comprised of three community paramedics, one peer support specialist, one mental health clinician, and one program manager thanks to partnerships with Buncombe County Public Health and our community partners in peer support. Typically, when you call 911 you are connected to fire, ambulance, or law enforcement. Buncombe County dispatchers now have a new option. The community paramedics team is dispatched to substance-use overdose situations or any questionable call that can be related to overdoses.

There are multiple goals and benefits to community paramedicine. The team raises awareness and connects members of our community to valuable support services, 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, to provide wrap-around services with social workers and  mental health specialists dispatched through our 911 Call Center to get the right services to the right patient at the right time,” says Buncombe County Emergency Services Director Taylor Jones.

Community impact by the numbers*

  • 6 person team
  • 661 total calls (296 in 2020 and 365 in 2021 so far)
  • 195 Heroin/Fentanyl overdoses connected with peer support
  • 70 individuals in an ongoing active rehab facility, MAT, or mental health program through a community paramedic connection

*As of Feb. 25, 2021

Read more: Community Paramedicine: A New 911