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Fire Capt. Jesse Blaire is leading the charge in addressing the opioid crisis in Florida by bringing addiction medication, specifically buprenorphine, to people in need. He meets patients at their homes, like Shawnice Slaughter, who overdosed on opioids and now receives daily check-ins and medication from Blaire. The use of buprenorphine is part of the Coordinated Opioid Recovery Network (CORE) program, which aims to streamline services for individuals struggling with opioid addiction by removing barriers to treatment. The program is funded by the state’s opioid settlement and offers free services to patients.

In the past, doctors needed a federal waiver to prescribe buprenorphine to treat opioid use disorder, leading to limited access to the medication. However, Congress removed this requirement in late 2022 to increase availability. Blaire’s team at Ocala Fire Rescue began offering buprenorphine to patients as part of their Community Paramedicine program and the Ocala Recovery Project. These efforts aim to connect individuals who have overdosed with long-term stabilization services, including addiction medication and other support services. By offering buprenorphine to opioid users, Blaire’s team has successfully connected numerous patients with treatment and help stabilize them long-term.

Buprenorphine works by stimulating opioid receptors in the brain, mitigating withdrawal symptoms, reducing cravings, and preventing overdosing on other opioids like fentanyl or heroin. The use of addiction medications like buprenorphine has been shown to greatly reduce the risk of overdose deaths and increase retention in treatment. However, despite the proven efficacy of these medications, many individuals with opioid use disorders do not receive any form of addiction treatment. By offering buprenorphine to patients like Jacqueline Luciano, who has struggled with addiction for years, Blaire’s team is helping individuals stabilize and overcome their addiction.

Blaire’s approach to addressing the opioid crisis involves building trust and offering small gestures of support to individuals seeking help. By meeting patients where they are and providing practical assistance like rides to treatment centers, food, and clothing donations, Blaire is able to establish a sense of care and usefulness to those struggling with addiction. By removing barriers to treatment and offering immediate support, Blaire’s team has been able to help individuals like Jetson, who has tried to stop using drugs numerous times but keeps relapsing. By offering a supportive hand and access to treatment services, Blaire hopes to make a difference in the lives of those struggling with opioid addiction.

Through initiatives like the CORE program and the innovative approach taken by Blaire’s team at Ocala Fire Rescue, there is hope for greater access to addiction treatment services for individuals battling opioid addiction. By providing addiction medication like buprenorphine and connecting patients with long-term stabilization services, these programs aim to reduce opioid overdose deaths and improve outcomes for individuals struggling with addiction. With the ongoing support of state officials and continued funding from opioid settlement dollars, efforts to expand access to addiction treatment services are underway to address the growing opioid crisis in Florida and beyond.

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