NEW HANOVER COUNTY, NC (WECT) - The goal is to intervene, educate, and ultimately, save lives.
Local leaders gathered Friday at Wilmington City Hall for the official launch of the Cape Fear Opiate Overdose Quick Response Team (CFOOQRT).
"This quick response team will intervene and will be on the ground face to face with the addiction, the origin of the epidemic, the lowest possible place," said New Hanover County Chairman of Commissioners Woody White.
The new opiate overdose response team is the next line of defense in the opioid epidemic that has plagued the Cape Fear Region.
"The team functions in a simple matter, by bringing a team together from Coastal Horizons (treatment center) and pairing them with first responders on the street who are on the front lines of addiction," said Kenny House with Coastal Horizons.
The team will contact victims through repeated house visits, phone calls, text messages, and other communication.
"These teams will visit survivors and their families one to five days after an overdose and encourage them to get treatment," House said. "If they are not ready, we want to help them be safer, and educate them so they are not repeat drug offenders."
House says the goal is to treat four people per week with a goal of 200 per year.
The idea for the CFOOQRT came from a similar plan used in a small town in Ohio. The teams there saw a 35 percent decrease in repeat overdoses, and an 80 percent success rate in getting people into treatment.
House Bill 324 funded the pilot program for two years at $250,000 a year. Sponsors of that bill include Representatives Ted Davis (R-New Hanover), Deb Butler (D-Brunswick, New Hanover), and Holly Grange (R-New Hanover).
The money will fund salaries and travel for the team made up of a peer support specialist for substance abuse, a licensed behavioral health specialist, and a part-time psychiatrist or medical professional.
The Department of Public Safety and the City of Wilmington will share the results of the pilot project on Feb. 1, 2019.