South Carolina Community Paramedics Begin Home Visits for Addicts

By: Kirsten Glavin – JEMS

Posted: Jan 28, 2019 10:23 PM EST

PICKENS Co., SC – In the midst of an opioid epidemic sweeping the nation, Pickens County is hoping one new program can help local addicts get clean.

In a special-called meeting Monday night, Pickens County Council heard testimony from Directors of two EMS agencies and one treatment service, asking for formal support of a new Community Outreach Paramedic Education Program, otherwise known as a “COPE” Program.

The program would allow a specially-trained paramedic and one para-support specialist to visit addicts within 3 days after an overdose to offer their support and services.

“A lot of these folks are not going to go looking for help, but when they have just received Narcan and just had the scare, then a paramedic that they know may make a difference,” said Randy Bowers, Director of Bowers Emergency Services.

According to Bowers, Bowers Emergency Services is the only private EMS company in the state that has trained “Community Paramedics,” or paramedics with at least 5 years experience and more than 400 hours of non-critical training to help in long-term care.

His 10 community paramedics would be the one’s running the home visits, along with a specialist from the Behavioral Health Services of Pickens County.

“They need the treatment, they need to find an alternative method to come off the pain medication and to be able to be healthy, happy and successful in their lives again,” said Angela Farmer, Executive Director of Behavioral Health Services of Pickens County.

Farmer said that their specialists are all long-time recovering addicts who can relate and provide an understanding, as well as offer services.

“Their first line of defense is saving the persons life immediately. Then there needs to be the treatment in order to address the underlying problem, and that’s where behavioral health services comes in,” she told 7 News.

While Pickens County EMS said Monday that they do not have Community Paramedics, they said they will be offering referrals to help bring the number of overdoses in the county down.
“In 2018 we gave Narcan 390 times, so you’re looking at more than an average amount, more than once a day,” said Michael Marling, Pickens County EMS Director. “So it is a big problem.”

The county received a $25,000 federal grant for the program in July, although Bowers said they intend to apply for more money after a trial run is completed by June of 2019.

Pickens County Council gave their stamp of approval, voicing support for the program Monday evening.

“It’s a great partnership with a lot of different folks who came together with one goal, and that’s to make a difference,” said Bowers.

Bowers added that 10 Community Paramedics will be undergoing a second round of training with DHEC on Tuesday.

The program will take effect on February 1st.

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