Last month, Alexandria Police Department Lieutenant Mike Kochis responded to a call in the Carlyle area and found an unconscious middle-aged man lying on the sidewalk.
One of the man’s friends told Kochis that they were returning from a party and the man just “went out,” collapsing to the ground. The man wasn’t breathing, and Kochis couldn’t find a pulse.
Like all APD officers, Kochis is trained on how to recognize an opioid overdose and carries Narcan, a naloxone nasal spray that can help reverse an opioid overdose, even if the person is not breathing.
The man’s symptoms lined up with an opioid overdose, so Kochis turned the man on his side and sprayed a dose of Narcan into his nose. When the man didn’t respond after several seconds, Kochis administered a second dose.
Suddenly, the man gasped and began coughing. Minutes later, Alexandria Fire Department medics arrived and transported him to the hospital.
Opioid overdoses are at epidemic levels in the United States. Opioids are a class of highly addictive drugs used to reduce pain and include prescription opioids like oxycodone and hydrocodone as well as illegal opioids like heroin. Overdoses can occur in people who have an addiction to substances as well as those who do not, such as someone accidentally overdosing on prescription opioids after a surgery or an injury, a child ingesting opioid pills or powders from a home medicine cabinet or other storage location, or someone using street drugs unknowingly laced with opioids.
As Commander of APD Vice/Narcotics, Kochis is familiar with the impact of the national opioid crisis in Alexandria. For over two years, he worked with representatives from various City departments and community organizations on the City’s Opioid Work Group to help address the epidemic at the local level.
During that time APD increased its efforts to help overdose victims get into treatment. In partnership with Inova Alexandria Hospital and Department of Community and Human Services substance use treatment programs, APD also initialized the Recovery Bag Program, in which overdose victims are given a bag containing information about opioid addiction and recovery resources as well as a prepaid cell phone with pre-programmed numbers for recovery programs and the assigned police officer.
In addition to regular street level heroin operations, APD participated in Joint Operation Purple Rain, resulting in the dismantling of a multi-state heroin distribution organization.
As part of APD efforts, all officers are required to go through REVIVE! trainings, which train people how to recognize an overdose and administer Narcan.
That training paid off for Kochis.
“This was the first time I administered naloxone,” said Kochis, who adds that officers don’t use it often because medics tend arrive quickly. “But there are times when an officer will arrive first—and time can matter.”
“Mike’s experience was like any other where police officers react to a situation through their training,” says Captain Monica Lisle, who currently represents APD on the Opioid Work Group along with Lieutenant Matt Weinert. “And all Alexandria residents should know that the kind of training Mike participated in is available to them as well.”
Free REVIVE! trainings are offered twice a month for the public on the second Tuesday, from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m., and the last Thursday, from 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. at 2355 Mill Road, Room 140. Participants receive a free medical kit that includes Narcan upon the completion of training. (For more information, visit alexandriava.gov/Opioids.)
Naloxone is also available without a prescription at all pharmacies. Obtain it for free at the Alexandria Health Department main office (4480 King St.), from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays; and from 12:45 to 4:30 p.m. on Thursdays. Appointments are not necessary but can be made by calling 703.746.4888.
Kochis encourages the public to take the training because it can save a life.
“It is good to know that man survived,” he says.
“We are so proud of Mike and grateful that the APD was open and willing to engage their officers in this training,” says Opioid Response Coordinator Emily Bentley, who also chairs the Opioid Work Group. “It’s truly making a difference.”
For more information about the Opioid Work Group and the opioid epidemic, visit alexandriava.gov/Opioids.