With Virginia in a grips of an epidemic of opioid abuse and overdoses, the Virginia State Police and health service provider Cigna have announced steps they are taking to curb the problem or mitigate the damage.
VSP has announced that as of July 1, all sworn VSP personnel through the ranks of first sergeant will be trained and equipped to use Narcan dispensers in the case of dangerous opioid exposure and overdose emergencies. Through a grant administered by the Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services, VSP has purchased more than 2,100 Narcan dispensers and trained key personnel in their use.
Narcan Nasal Spray is an FDA-approved nasal form of naxolone, a prescription medicine. When appropriately administered, the medicine counteracts the life-threatening effects of opioid overdose. All trained state police personnel have been issued two dispensers to carry with them at all times. State police canine troopers have been issued three dispensers, for the protection of their dogs as an opioid exposure poses just as serious a threat to an animal’s safety.
According to data compiled by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, there were 1,130 opioid-related overdose deaths in Virginia in 2016. A study based on U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data shows opioid-related deaths increased by 345 percent between 2001 and 2016.
On June 21, Cigna announced a new commitment to reduce rates of opioid and other drug overdoses among its commercial customers by 25 percent in targeted communities, including Virginia, by December 2021. The initiative in Virginia is part of the company’s broader efforts to help curb the U.S. opioid epidemic.
Key elements of Cigna’s comprehensive program include:
- Expanding its use of predictive analytics to identify customers who are most likely to suffer from an opioid overdose and prompts interventions to help prevent overdoses from occurring.
- Making enhancements to pharmacy prior-authorization and quantity limit programs and requiring informed consent for patients receiving hazardous levels of opioids, while also encouraging co-prescribing of naloxone.
- Partnering with employers to make informed health plan design decisions and offer programs that can improve the prevention of short and long term opioid use and treatment of addiction.
- Improving primary care treatment of chronic pain in Cigna Collaborative Care Arrangements, develop a directory of Centers of Excellence for chronic pain management and increase access to cognitive behavioral therapy for pain.
To support this initiative, Cigna and the Cigna Foundation will expand and accelerate the impact of community-based organizations that are leading localized programs. Cigna intends to learn from initial efforts during the three-year time period and expand to other communities over time.
For more information, visit cigna.com/about-us/healthcare-leadership/away-from-blame.
In Virginia, the Narcan dispensers and training already are being credited with saving one life.
On June 17, Virginia State Police Trooper J.A. Montgomery responded to assist local law enforcement in Lynchburg with a medical emergency, where he encountered a deputy administering CPR to an adult female while waiting for a local EMS crew to respond. Montgomery, who had just been trained nine days earlier on the administration of his Narcan dispenser, assessed the woman’s condition and the cause of her medical distress. He confirmed that she was suffering from an opioid-related overdose and administered a naxolone dose.
CPR continued and a pulse was detected with EMS arriving moments later. The woman was transported to Lynchburg General Hospital and released from the hospital two days later.