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A paramedic was skeptical about this treatment for stopping repeat opioid overdoses. Then he saw it help

Lauren Peace, Tampa Bay Times, KFF Health News on

Published in Health & Fitness

OCALA, Fla. — Fire Capt. Jesse Blaire steered his SUV through the mobile home park until he spotted the little beige house with white trim and radioed to let dispatchers know he’d arrived.

There, Shawnice Slaughter waited on the steps, wiping sleep from her eyes.

“Good morning, Shawnice,” Blaire said. “How are you feeling today?”

“I’ve been good, I’ve been good,” Slaughter said. “Much better.”

Three days earlier, Blaire — a paramedic who leads the fire department’s emergency medical team — met Slaughter at a nearby hospital. She had overdosed on opioids. It took four vials of an overdose reversal medication and dozens of chest compressions to get her breathing again.

At the hospital, Blaire told Slaughter about a free program that could help. It wouldn’t just connect her with a recovery center but would also get her doctors’ appointments, plus rides there. More important, she would get medicine to alleviate withdrawal symptoms so she wouldn’t search for drugs to ease the sickness. Blaire would bring that medication, daily, to her home.

 

“I have a son,” Slaughter, 31, told Blaire. “I need to be alive for him.”

Every morning since, Blaire had driven over for a check-in. He reminded Slaughter of appointments and took note of what she needed: clothes, food, help with bills.

And at the end of each visit, from a lockbox in the back of his car, he dispensed to her a couple of tiny, lifesaving tablets.

Those tablets — a medicine called buprenorphine — represent a tidal change in the way counties in Florida and other states are addressing the opioid crisis. The idea: Get addiction medication to people who need it by meeting them where they are. Sometimes, that’s on the street. Sometimes, it’s in the driveway of a big house with a swimming pool. Sometimes on the steps of a modest home like Slaughter’s.

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©2024 KFF Health News. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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