BACKGROUND: As drug-related morbidity and mortality continue to surge, police officers are on the front lines of the North American overdose (OD) crisis. Drug law enforcement shapes health risks among people who use drugs (PWUD), while also impacting the occupational health and wellness of officers. Effective interventions to align law enforcement practices with public health and occupational safety goals remain underresearched.
OBJECTIVE: The Opioids and Police Safety Study (OPS) aims to shift police practices relating to PWUD. It adapts and evaluates the relative effectiveness of a curriculum that bundles content on public health promotion with occupational risk reduction (ORR) to supplement a web-based OD response and naloxone training platform (GetNaloxoneNow.org, or GNN). This novel approach has the potential to improve public health and occupational safety practices, including using naloxone to reverse ODs, referring PWUD to treatment and other supportive services, and avoiding syringe confiscation.
METHODS: This longitudinal study uses a randomized pragmatic trial design. A sample of 300 active-duty police officers from select counties in Pennsylvania, Vermont, and New Hampshire with high OD fatality rates will be randomized (n=150 each) to either the experimental arm (GNN + OPS) or the control arm (GNN + COVID-19 ORR). A pre- and posttraining survey will be administered to all 300 officers, after which they will be administered quarterly surveys for 12 months. A subsample of police officers will also be qualitatively followed in a simultaneous embedded mixed-methods approach. Research ethics approval was obtained from the New York University Institutional Review Board.
RESULTS: Results will provide an understanding of the experiences, knowledge, and perceptions of this sample of law enforcement personnel. Generalized linear models will be used to analyze differences in key behavioral outcomes between the participants in each of the 2 study arms and across multiple time points (anticipated minimum effect size to be detected, d=0.50). Findings will be disseminated widely, and the training products will be available nationally once the study is completed.
CONCLUSIONS: The OPS is the first study to longitudinally assess the impact of a web-based opioid-related ORR intervention for law enforcement in the U.S. Our randomized pragmatic clinical trial aims to remove barriers to life-saving police engagement with PWUD/people who inject drugs by focusing both on the safety of law enforcement and evidence-based and best practices for working with persons at risk of an opioid OD. Our simultaneous embedded mixed-methods approach will provide empirical evaluation of the diffusion of the naloxone-based response among law enforcement.
Evaluation of an experimental web-based educational module on opioid-related occupational safety among police officers: Protocol for a randomized pragmatic trial to minimize barriers to overdose response
JMIR Research Protocols, 11 (2), e33451. doi: 10.2196/33451. PMCID: PMC8917434.