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‘An uphill battle’: Overdose calls on the rise, ATCEMS says

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AUSTIN (KXAN) — The fight against opioid addiction continues on in Austin, but it’s an uphill battle.

Over the past three months, Austin-Travis County EMS crews have seen an increase in overdose calls.

“What we are seeing over the last three months is plus 90 opioid overdoses,” said Commander Randy Chhabra with ATCEMS.

Chhabra said it’s impacting all ages, men and women as well as all parts of the city.

“We see it all over,” Chhabra said. “We are definitely seeing an increase in use of fentanyl in our population within these overdoses and I think that is a big contributor to some of these negative outcomes or the need for the 911 service.”

In some cases paramedics are responding to the same person multiple times in a day.

Chhabra said they are finding fentanyl in Cocaine, Percocet’s and Xanax bought off the streets and other drugs.

“It is in almost every single illicit drug,” Chhabra said.

It’s impacting every part of the city and and no one is immune. Chhabra said patients can be young, old, men, women it doesn’t matter.

In December, Chhabra said they saw a spike in overdoses for people experiencing homelessness.

“I don’t know if it is a new product that has come into our community that they have accessed, but we have seen an increase in that demographic,” Chhabra said.

While many agencies are working to fight this epidemic, EMS is working to save lives, but also connect patients with resources and help after they overdose.

“We want to make sure this person is ok,” Chhabra said. “Then we start working into what do you need? What can we do for you? That might be education, that might be harm reduction where we are providing Narcan kits. People might be ready for treatment.”

In 2023 EMS received more than 4,500 calls related to overdoses.

“Of those 4,000 calls you are referring to we provided a response to just under 1300 of them in terms of a follow up response,” Chhabra said. “So we identified 1,300 of them as opioid related and our program went out and tried to make contact with that person or the family to provide services.”

Chhabra said it’s a continuous fight to save lives, but education, more resources and treatment can help.

“We have to realize these people, they have a problem, it is a disease and they need help,” Chhabra said.

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