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“We’re running eight to ten overdose calls a day” : Help for opioid addiction is free and available to people living in NCFL

Updated: May. 20, 2021 at 5:45 PM EDT
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OCALA, Fla. (WCJB) - First responders put their lives on the line everyday to make sure we are safe and healthy, but they face many hidden dangers while doing so.

In August 2020, Ocala Fire Rescue launched a new program to help people struggling with opioid addiction. They named it, the Ocala Recovery Project.

RELATED STORY: New opioid addiction program opens in Marion County

Since it’s inception, they’ve already helped 300 people.

“The average person has no idea what goes on in the neighborhoods that they drive passed everyday,” Capt. Jesse Blaire said.

We joined Community Paramedic, Chris Hickman on his route for the Community Paramedicine program, which helps a lot of the same people involved with the Ocala Recovery Project.

We visited Sandra Pippin at her home.

RELATED STORY: New program in Marion County hopes to reduce unnecessary ER visits

“Just since we started, what do you think you’ve gotten from us coming in and treating you at different times over the last year?” Hickman asked Pippin during the visit.

“Everything,” she simply replied.

And it’s someone’s ‘everything’, whether that’s a child, sibling, or parent, that could be gone in a blink of an eye without this help.

“There are people in Marion County right now that don’t know that their kid is using fentanyl, or heroin, or even weed with fentanyl in it. We’re probably running eight to ten overdose calls a day and those aren’t the same people overdosing everyday. Those are new people, eight to ten a day, everyday,” Blaire said.

But our first responders are determined to make sure this help is available.

Clay County Fire Rescue recently started its own medication assisted therapy program, in partnership with Clay Behavioral Health Center Services.

Once a referral is submitted to the Overdose Data to Action (OD2A) Community Paramedicine Program, contact is made...

Posted by Clay County Fire Rescue on Wednesday, May 12, 2021

The Clay county department of heat was awarded funding from the CDC to form this program, and will receive $322,000 dollars a year until August 2022.

“We offer up to seven days of the medication called Buprenorphine. The idea is to keep them off street opioids and do that transition into therapy,” Clay County Fire Rescue Paramedicine Coordinator, Battalion Chief Glenn East said.

The program officially started mid-January and they’ve been able to help 24 people so far, including one young woman who later joined the program.

“She had been trying for about 20 years. The one thing that she said was this is the first time she had been in a program that actually felt like somebody cared,” East said.

Caring and kindness, that could be the key to ending the opioid epidemic.

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