With support from the Gaston County Controlled Substance Coalition, Partners Behavioral Health Management, and the CaroMont Health Community Foundation, the Gaston County Opioid Overdose Response Team was formed in 2018.
Gaston Emergency Medical Services (GEMS) reports Gaston County first responders use Naloxone/Narcan to reverse life threatening opioid overdoses for an average of 45 individuals a month. It transports more than 90% of these individuals to the Emergency Department (ED) at CaroMont Regional Medical Center, where they are stabilized, usually opt out of additional treatment, and are sent home in a matter of hours. All too often, they experience another overdose and, if lucky, will be resuscitated by a first responder, or by family and friends who have Narcan to administer.
The Gaston County Opioid Overdose Response Team (OORT) is designed to end this cycle by providing opioid-dependent individuals with opportunities to convert near-death experiences into life-changing events that can lead them to recovery and reduced risk of illness and death. With the patient’s permission, the Response Team member sets a follow up visit within 72 hours and at a location of the patient’s choosing– to extend the discussion to opioid treatment options and harm reduction, or ways to reduce the risk of death, disease, and incarceration from opioid misuse. These conversations can continue over several months. Patients who are unwilling to engage with the Response Team member, or who decline the offer to meet after discharge from the ED, will be offered harm reduction education.
OORT members are the key to the program and are certified as a North Carolina Certified Peer Support Specialists (CPSS) who have at least one year minimum in recovery from addiction. Their “lived experience” enables them to engage “reversed individuals” with authenticity, compassion, insight, and understanding as they help resuscitated individuals build hope, pursue treatment, and engage in harm reduction.
Another member of the OORT is the Harm Reductionist Specialist and Program Coordinator. This member provides engagement and support services to program participants through individual educational encounters, and provides referrals to substance use services, direct harm reduction counseling. This team member manages the Opioid Overdose Response Team. The Harm Reduction Specialist also holds public education sessions on Harm Reduction and Overdose Prevention.
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