VA team responsible for distributing naloxone kits at Chillicothe VA identified a plan to best meet the needs of rural Ohio Veterans.Left to right: Traci Turner-Cole, Tammy Dillard, Diana Finley and Laura Baxter.
In compliance with a national mandate, VA facilities distribute naloxone kits, commonly referred to as Narcan, to Veterans identified as high risk for opioid overdose. Naloxone is an opioid antagonist, or blocker, that can quickly reverse the effects of an opioid overdose in an emergency.
Examples of opioids include oxycodone, hydrocodone, methadone, heroin and fentanyl.
To meet the mandate, some facilities chose to mail a kit to high-risk Veterans along with written information about the medication. The team responsible for these efforts at the Chillicothe VA worked diligently to identify a plan to best meet the needs of Veterans they serve in rural Ohio.
Focus on saving lives and building trust
The team focused on two things: saving the lives of Veterans and other members of the community and building trust with the Veterans whom they serve. The Chillicothe team determined the best approach was to directly contact those Veterans identified as high risk and to provide personalized education about naloxone.
They also told them how to use the medication and additional steps to take (calling 911 and providing basic life support) should they face an overdose situation.
Tammy Dillard was making her way through the list of Veterans when she contacted a Veteran she had known for over a decade. Dillard is nurse practitioner with the Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) Clinic. “I had no idea how the phone call would turn out,” she said.
The Veteran was very friendly and stated he was sober and doing well. When offered the naloxone kit, the Veteran gladly agreed to have it mailed to him and was patient as Dillard went through the routine process of discussing proper use of naloxone, the importance of also calling 911 and initiating basic life support measures.
Surprised to learn why he wanted another kit
A few days later, Dillard received a voicemail from the Veteran requesting another naloxone kit. In this line of work, one might expect a patient with history of substance abuse to request multiple naloxone kits, but this story has a different ending.
On the voicemail, he said he needed another kit because he had used his to save his neighbor’s life. “He sounded so proud stating, ‘Just like we talked about. I did CPR and called 911,’” Dillard said.
When the team decided on the process they would use to contact Veterans about the naloxone kits, they knew it would take more time and effort but they felt it was the best way to ensure the safety of their Veterans and the community. Chillicothe’s naloxone distribution program has been very successful, achieving more than double the goal for distribution set nationally.
“The work we do matters so much and this is a great example of how this helped us answer a need for a Veteran who was in turn able to save a person’s life because of this intervention,” said Dr. Lindsay DeMuth, Addiction Recovery Services coordinator. “It emphasizes the importance of discussing critical pieces of clinical information so we know Veterans have the knowledge and resources they need to help themselves. This story also highlights the importance of a nonjudgmental, open, and trusting relationship with a provider. This is something that used to be so stigmatizing but is now something he is comfortable talking about and reaching out for additional help.”
Thank you team, for doing more than just going through the motions and putting Veterans first.