According to data from the Department of Veteran Affairs’ (VA) Opioid Overdose Education and Naloxone Distribution (OEND) program, more than 200,000 veterans were issued naloxone from May 2014 to September 2019.
The agency, who is a leader in naloxone distribution to health care patients, has documented more than 700 successful opioid overdose reversals from naloxone use, according to a press release.
“Veterans are twice as likely to die from accidental overdose compared to the general US population,” said Robert Wilkie, VA secretary, in a press release.
The OEND program, which uses a multidisciplinary approach, educates vulnerable patients about opioid risk and provides them with naloxone. Further, the agency has also standardized patient and provider education, clinical guidance, clinical decision support tools identifying patients in danger of an overdose, and national clinical notes to improve care post-overdose.
“Given the opioid crisis, it is our duty to do everything we can to help veterans avoid opioid overdose and thanks to the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act of 2016, naloxone education and naloxone prescriptions are free to veterans enrolled for VA care who may be at-risk of opioid overdose,” Secretary Wilkie said.
The VA also has several other initiatives aimed at addressing the opioid epidemic and use among veterans. Recently, the agency launched a Rapid Naloxone Initiative. This initiative consists of three elements including, OEND, VA Police Naloxone, and automated external defibrillator (AED) cabinet naloxone.
“One hundred sixteen facilities have equipped 2785 police officers with naloxone and 56 facilities have placed naloxone in 693 AED cabinets, with 126 opioid overdose reversals (120 by VA Police and 6 with AED cabinet naloxone),” the agency explained.
In addition, another initiative, called the Opioid Safety Initiative, has had a significant impact, the agency explained. This initiative has reduced reliance on opioid medication for pain management by more than 53% since 2012. It offers alternative pan care options that are safer and more effective. Alternative options include, yoga, acupuncture, tai chi, and behavioral health approaches.
Finally, the VA offers specialty substance use disorder at every health care system. It uses evidence-based psychosocial treatments and medications to effectively treat opioid use disorders and other substance use disorders. —Julie Gould