Augusta VA hospital launches program to fight veteran overdoses

Published: Aug. 31, 2022 at 6:24 PM EDT
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - The opioid crisis is a battle the country has fought for years.

For our veterans, it’s an issue that’s gotten worse over the last decade.

The Veteran Health Administration says overdose deaths jumped more than 53 percent from 2010 to their latest data in 2019.

The Charlie Norwood VA is kicking off a campaign that could save the lives of countless local veterans.

A big part of the solution is Narcan. But how is the VA expanding access to it?

The VA is launching a new opioid safety and Narcan education program. Staff at the downtown VA were at every entrance educating veterans about overdoses, substance abuse, and how Narcan works.

They say this is one small step to hopefully save the lives of those who sacrificed so much. At every entrance of the VA, pharmacists are trying to stop and educate as many veterans.

“There’s just a lot of awareness that needed to be brought out there with the risks associated with opioids,” said Clinical Pharmacy Specialist Vanessa Croley.

There have been over 108,000 overdose deaths between February 2021 to February 2022 among veterans.

“It’s very scary right now, and the reason it’s extremely scary right is because fentanyl and synthetic fentanyl is being added to substances out in the community,” she said.

That’s why Croley is stepping in to educate veterans on opioid overdoses and Narcan. The VA’s new campaign is working to save lives.

“The age range it’s our working class, and this is from ages 18 to 44. That’s the majority of the age range where these overdoses have occurred,” she said.

Studies from the National Institutes of Health show from 2010-2019, overdose mortality rates increased by more than 53 percent among veterans. It’s a problem that experts say the pandemic made far worse than it was.

“I had a veteran that lost his best friend in his arms from an overdose, and the next day, I had a veteran who experienced an overdose himself and said he was dead but was rescued by the Narcan spray,” she said.

They’re working to put Narcan in the hands of every veteran while offering some advice.

“Don’t take anything unless your doctor prescribes it and only take it the way they prescribe it,” said Croley.

The VA says that the Narcan spray is free to every veteran who needs it. All you have to do is call the pharmacy call center or your provider, and they can put an order in for you.

For more information, visit https://mentalhealth.va.gov/.