Law Enforcement Training on Harm Reduction

Law Enforcement Training on Harm Reduction Peggy Kelley Thu, 10/25/2018 - 02:40 PM EDT


Law enforcement training on harm reduction involves preparing law enforcement to better respond to and prevent drug overdoses, including those caused by prescription drugs. Most such training focuses on opioid overdoses. The Bureau of Justice Affairs (BJA) and several states’ law enforcement agencies have recently begun offering harm-reduction training to state and local law enforcement officers, in addition to supply-reduction training. Some states have also authorized community-based organizations to train lay responders and law enforcement in naloxone administration (New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services, 2014).


To reduce the harm caused by prescription drug misuse and abuse

Typical Elements

Before the training, it’s important to do the following:

  • Determine the state’s system for providing supplemental training courses to law enforcement officers
    • Note: Some states require training to be provided through state-administered classes, while others allow law enforcement agencies to implement their own onsite training. Training on naloxone administration is usually provided by local hospital staff, other health professionals, or community-based organizations that provide naloxone access (BJA, 2014).
  • Identify a funding source to equip law enforcement officers with naloxone kits and then train officers to use them
  • Acquire the naloxone kits, to be dispensed after the training
  • Acquire BJA training manuals and other resources from states that have already initiated harm-reduction training, to be shared with participants (BJA, 2014)
  • Secure trainers who possess the required state training certifications
    • Note: For example, New York requires police trainers to receive certification from an Instructor Development Course approved by the state Office of Public Safety.
  • Seek cooperation with law enforcement commanders, both to ensure that training is required for officers and to assure them that such training will be available
  • If needed, request technical assistance from BJA, state agencies, or nonprofits

Harm-reduction training generally takes place over multiple days, or during a single day with breaks to prevent fatigue. Sessions can include some or all of the following (New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services, 2014):

  • Lectures on a variety of topics, for example:
    • The purpose of harm-reduction training for law enforcement
    • Background on prescription drugs and other opioids
    • The signs and symptoms of an overdose
    • The purpose of naloxone, how it works, and how to administer it
    • State laws protecting lay administrators of naloxone
    • The role of community organizations that provide naloxone
    • How to handle individuals post-administration of naloxone
    • How to complete a naloxone incident report
  • Opportunities to practice administering naloxone in cases of opioid overdose (U.S. Department of Justice, 2014)
  • An assessment of the state’s naloxone access law (New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services, 2014):
    • As of December 2014, 27 states and the District of Columbia allow nonmedical personnel, including law enforcement, to use naloxone without civil or criminal liability (The Network for Public Health Law, 2014)
    • As of March 2015, state and local law enforcement agencies in 19 states have received training to administer naloxone (North Carolina Harm Reduction Coalition, 2015)
    • As of December 2014, 23 states restrict naloxone administration exclusively to medical professionals, and do not allow law enforcement officers or other laypersons to administer it (The Network for Public Health Law, 2014)
  • Development of a naloxone incident report for law enforcement use

After completing the training, participants are assessed on their ability to do the following (New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services, 2014):

  • Identify the existence and location of community naloxone programs
  • Explain the purpose of syringe-access programs and Good Samaritan laws
  • Identify the characteristics of opioid overdose
  • Identify the steps to care for a person suffering from an opioid overdose
  • Demonstrate how to use naloxone to treat an opioid overdose


Law enforcement personnel


No outcome data have been found regarding the role of law enforcement training on harm reduction in preventing the non-medical use of prescription drugs and/or its consequences.


Naloxone and Overdose Prevention for Law Enforcement Toolkit. 

Law Enforcement Naloxone Toolkit. 

Opioid Overdose and Intranasal Naloxone Training for Law Enforcement: Trainer’s Guide

Opioid Overdose Education and Naloxone Distribution: MDPH Naloxone Pilot Project Core Competencies

Acknowledged by

Office of National Drug Control Policy, Executive Office of the President. Epidemic: Responding to America’s Prescription Drug Abuse Crisis. 

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Behavioral Health Coordinating Committee. Addressing Prescription Drug Abuse in the United States: Current Activities and Future Opportunities

U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Assistance. Law Enforcement Nalaxone Toolkit


Bureau of Justice Assistance. (2014). Law enforcement naloxone toolkit. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice. Retrieved from

The Network for Public Health Law. (2014). Legal interventions to reduce overdose mortality: Naloxone access and overdose Good Samaritan laws. Retrieved from

New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services. (2014). Opioid overdose and intranasal naloxone training for law enforcement: Trainer’s guide. Retrieved from

North Carolina Harm Reduction Coalition. (2015). Law enforcement departments carrying naloxone. Retrieved from

U.S. Department of Justice. (2014). Attorney General Holder announces plans for federal law enforcement personnel to begin carrying naloxone. Retrieved from