Miami VA Healthcare System
Miami VA police can help treat opioid overdoses
Police officers at the Miami VA Healthcare System not only serve and protect thousands of Veterans, VA employees, volunteers and visitors, they can also save lives. Since March 30, Miami VA police officers have been carrying a nasal form of naloxone, which can reverse the effects of opioid overdose, so they can provide early treatment if they encounter an opioid overdose while on duty.
According to the CDC, opioids—prescription and illicit—cause the most drug overdose deaths and are the cause of death in six out of 10 drug overdoses nationwide. From 2014 to 2015, the state of Florida alone saw a 22.7 percent increase in the drug overdose death rate.
Miami VA Police Chief Steven Elliott said he started this effort in Miami, so his police force can be better prepared to respond in case of an overdose. He was introduced to the the idea when the practice was selected as one of the “gold status” winners in VA’s “Shark Tank” competition that started in 2016. The VA Boston Healthcare System submitted the practice into the national contest, and its VA police force was the first in the nation to begin using naloxone.
“If you can save one person’s life, it makes the program worth it,” Elliott said. “Overdoses from opioids is a rampant issue nationwide, and I want our police officers to be ready to help if needed.”
Every two years Miami VA police officers will be trained by the Miami VA Pharmacy Service to identify the signs of an opioid overdose and properly administer the nasal form of naloxone. The treatment kits VA police carry contain two doses of naloxone and rubber gloves. The Miami VA currently has police officers assigned at the Bruce W. Carter VA Medical Center in Miami and at the William “Bill” Kling VA Clinic in Sunrise.
The practice is an initiative implemented by Dr. Miguel H. LaPuz, director of the VA Sunshine Healthcare Network (VISN 8) currently acting as principal deputy under secretary for health for the Veterans Health Administration. Elliott is hoping to help implement this practice at all VA police forces across Florida.
“Now, for the first time, our police officers can carry something on their belt that can help save a human life,” he said. “This solution is so easy to use and administer. Our police officers are not here to just show force; they also help Veterans, and this is another way they can do that.”
For more information about how naloxone is used in treating opioid overdoses visit the National Institute on Drug Abuse.