Closings, delays and early dismissals

Guilford County EMS starting rapid response team to combat opioid epidemic

GREENSBORO, N.C. -- For the past five years, Alex Smith says his life has been on the right path.

“I just have a full life in every single area you can think of,” Smith said. “Life couldn’t be better.”

He’s a full-time student, studying economics at UNCG, but says his biggest accomplishment of all has been staying clean.

“Since then, I haven’t found it necessary to use alcohol or drugs,” he said.

He started using drugs when he was 12 and got hooked on painkillers by 18, eventually turning to heroin.

“I was alone,” he said. “I was terrified. I was a slave to my addiction.”

But Smith, 30, was one of the lucky ones.

This year alone, more than 70 people have died from opioid related-deaths in Guilford County.

“Unfortunately, the numbers continue to increase,” Smith said.

Jim Albright, director of Guilford County EMS, hopes to bring those numbers down by starting a rapid response team to give help those battling addiction.

“Provide them some guidance, some direction and some support,” Albright said.

A police officer and an opioid navigator or counselor will meet with patients who have overdosed and want help.

“The reality is we’re trying to provide those resources to them and then assist them into getting into treatment,” Albright said.

It’s a program Smith says that will save a lot of lives.

“Over time, that’s going to create an atmosphere of recovery in this community,” Smith said.

He hopes it will teach addicts an important lesson which took him years to learn.

“My life was worth living,” Smith said.

Smith is now helping others recover, helping create the Spartan Recovery Program at UNCG.

The rapid response team is expected to be operational by Dec. 1.

The program will be funded by a $250,000 state award. ​