Forsyth EMS program focuses on opioid crisis

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FORSYTH COUNTY, N.C. -- Matthew Motsinger responds to overdoses every day.

"They're not breathing,” he said. “They're pulseless. They do not have a heartbeat. We see the devastation it causes to their lives, their loved ones’ lives."

Seventy-seven lives gone just this year in Forsyth County alone. The killer: opioids.

It's a crisis Motsinger and his team of community paramedics are fighting head-on.

“We needed to focus a little more time and a little more energy on that because we were seeing so much of it, they were repetitive calls, one after the other," he said.

When Forsyth County EMS first formed the team last year, the goal was to cut down on the number of unnecessary, repeat 911 calls.

But after seeing that many of the calls were overdoses, the program shifted.

"We ended up having to change the focus of that team," said Tara Tucker, quality manager coordinator for Forsyth County EMS.

The team now mainly focuses on overdose reversals, follow-up treatment and linking patients to help.

There have been 695 opioid-related overdoses in the county this year.

“So many families think, 'This is not gonna be my kid. This is not gonna be my spouse,’” Tucker said.

Tucker says with four to five overdose calls coming in every day, they added more staff, doubling its number of community paramedics from three to six.

"We've seen that revamping across the state and across the nation,” Tucker said.

The team also hands out Narcan which reverses an overdose and follows up with patients months after they've overdosed.

"We will fight this together," Motsinger said.

Guilford County EMS is launching a similar program, creating a rapid response team.

But instead of community paramedics, a counselor and a police officer will meet with patients who have overdosed and want help.​

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