The Burlington Fire Department is launching a six-month pilot program on Monday intended to address the city’s recent increase in drug overdose calls.
Instead of an ambulance and a fire truck, a different BFD vehicle will respond with two people inside it from what the department is calling the Community Response Team. The team members will have breathing masks and the opioid overdose reversal medication Narcan with them.
If a patient needs more medical help than the team’s supplies can offer, an ambulance will be called. In the event a patient doesn’t require additional help, the team will offer supplies like fentanyl test strips and Narcan kits. The team members will also connect patients with community support services that address not only substance abuse, but also issues including mental health and housing.
When it isn’t responding to service calls, the team will work on outreach and follow-up efforts for people experiencing opioid use disorder. Fire department officials say the intent is to serve as a liaison with areas of Burlington that experience a high volume of overdose calls.
Opioid settlement funds will cover the cost of the pilot program; the department will evaluate at the end of the program whether the Community Response Team should become permanent. The BFD says it’ll seek other funding sources during the next six months in case it decides the team should continue after the pilot period.