U.T. Health Experimenting With a New Program to Help Opioid Addicts

With EMS paramedics overwhelmed by opioid addiction patients, an experiment pioneered by Dr. James Langabeer of U.T. Health Houston appears to be having some initial success in cutting down on 9-1-1 overdose calls, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.

He tells News Radio 1200 WOAI the paramedics are making return visits to the homes of people who have been treated for opioid overdoses, to make sure they are on, and stay on, detox.

"We want to send the paramedics back out to the field," he said.  "Just to day, 'hey, how are you doing, we brought you in a month ago, we want to make sure that you are continuing in the process."

He says it isn't unusual for EMS to make calls for the same patient 7 to 12 times a year to treat overdoses.  He says if those people can successfully complete a drug addiction program, it will drastically cut down on the total number of EMS calls that are needed.

Every year in Texas, there are more than 1,200 deaths tied to prescription opioids such as oxycodone and hydrocodone, as well as illegal ones such as heroin. This marks a 400 percent increase in a little less than two decades. Langabeer said there is not sufficient data on the extent of the problem, and the study will help fill that gap in knowledge.

"We are going to save visits, we will have less calls to 9-1-1 from these patients," he said.

The program is funded by a $1.1 million award from the Texas Department of Health and Human Services Commission, through the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

To gauge the success of the program, researchers will measure how long patients stay in recovery.The study is being conducted in conjunction with the Houston Fire Department, Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center and the Houston Recovery Center.

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