Williamson County

New approach tackles opioid crisis in Williamson County

WILLIAMSON COUNTY, Texas (KXAN) - A team of specially-trained paramedics are using a unique approach designed to make sure overdose patients are getting the right treatment.

The paramedics are part of Williamson County's Mobile Outreach Team. They work with EMS and respond to mental health calls, but now they're tackling overdose calls as well.

"There's a big gap between the overdose itself and when treatment might become available," paramedic Daniel Sledge said, "especially to the populations that are uninsured or under-insured."

Sledge's team said from 2016 to 2017, Williamson County EMS saw a 39 percent increase in unintentional opioid overdoses. These are calls where Naloxone, a medication that can save lives, was used.

"Some of the times to get into a longer-term treatment specially for someone who is not insured it could be a matter of weeks and so what we want to do is take that and make it a matter of hours," said Sledge. "We just want to be able to offer patients treatment and offer it fast."

This pilot program, which is funded by the state, is part of a bigger push dubbed Community Risk Reduction. 

 "We see folks that have needs and they may not necessarily be needing an emergency room an ambulance or firetruck, but they have needs and when we see these folks enough times we say we've got to be able to step in and see if we can help facilitate those needs," said Chief Robert Isbell with the Round Rock Fire Department. 

The county already gives out  Naloxone to families with a history of overdose. Sledge is working with mental health and drug counselors hoping to spread the word. 

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