KNOX COUNTY — The majority of people who overdose survive.
A new initiative started by the Knox County Health Department targets people who overdose to get them help.
"Your biggest risk for overdosing is having overdosed before," said Dr. Martha Buchanan, the Director of the Knox County Health Department. "People who overdose are likely to overdose again."
Between October of 2016 and September of 2017, 1,268 people were administered Naloxone in Knox County.
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Of those, 93 people had received the overdose reversing drug on at least two occasions in the same time period.
The goal is now to bring that number down to zero by connecting with people directly after an overdose.
"The ultimate success would be that people get clean and stay clean," Dr. Buchanan said. "They get into treatment, they get sober, and they stay sober. That would be great."
The Knox County Health Department and the Knoxville Fire Department are teaming up to target overdose victims to stop them from overdosing again.
When KFD responds to a call, firefighters will notify the Health Department so that a case worker can follow up and offer them help to get clean.
"The idea would be that we get notified from the Knoxville Fire Department that somebody has overdosed and if they survive we connect with them, maybe it’s in the hospital, maybe it’s at home," Dr. Buchanan said. "It’s a case management program. We’re going to help you get into treatment if that’s what you need, or maybe you need Hepatitis C treatment, or maybe you need HIV treatment, or birth control, or you don’t know we have a syringe exchange program in town."
The program is brand new.
The Health Department hired an early response case manager within the past six months and KFD started teaming up just a couple of weeks ago. KFD currently runs the pilot program at two of their stations that often respond to overdose calls.
The hours and days following an overdose can be critical to turning lives around.
"About two thirds of the people who overdose survive," said Dr. Buchanan. "We want to capitalize on that opportunity to say hey, what do you need in your life that is going to make a difference."