There were 302 overdose deaths in Camden County last year, down from 338 deaths in 2022.
CAMDEN, New Jersey (WPVI) -- For the first time since 2020, overdose deaths in Camden County are down. The decline is set against the backdrop of the continued national opioid crisis.
Cooper University Health Care has been helping by trying a different approach to get those who use into treatment.
Paramedic Eric Tuttle is armed with Narcan, an overdose reversing drug, but also buprenorphine - also called "bupe."
"It decreases the patients chances of overdosing over the next few hours, and we can get them into a treatment facility," he said.
The idea is once you've got bupe, you've got an appointment coming up.
"Yes," said Tuttle. "You cant just give someone bupe and expect it to work. They need to see a doctor and therapy and treat underlying medical conditions."
The novel approach is the brainchild of Dr. Gerard Carroll.
"We'd had a really reasonable access rate bridging people onto the drug here in the ER, and we thought: 'What if we tried that here at that point of overdose?' Could we bridge you right in that moment of crisis?," said Dr. Gerrard Carroll.
He found equipping ambulances with "bupe" and training paramedics to start patients on it after reversals increased their chances of getting into treatment within a month.
"We've induced 300 people onto "bupe" in the field, about 25% of them are in treatment in 30 days and when you look that every one of those overdoses has a 10% chance of being dead in 12 months, that really translates to lives in my opinion," said Dr. Carroll.
Per Camden County, there were 302 overdose deaths last year, down from 338 in 2022.
"I think we do probably play a part in that as well as availability of addiction medicine programs," said Tuttle. "We're humanizing a patient that was dehumanized in this business. We're actually treating this now, instead of pushing them out of the way."
Dr. Carroll says they've helped the entire state of Delaware adopt this for their EMS system, along with parts of California and even Canada.