Massachusetts College Makes Narcan History

By Britni de la Cretaz 09/08/17

PAARI is partnering with one Massachusetts University to combat the opioid epidemic with the help of Narcan.

a group of students hanging out on the university lawn.

In response to the rising number of opioid-related overdose deaths in the state of Massachusetts, Bridgewater State University says it will be the first university to make Narcan, a drug that can reverse opioid overdoses, publicly available on its campus.

The drug will be available in 50 defibrillator boxes across the campus, including in all residence halls, according to the Boston Globe.

“This is new to universities,” Dr. Daniel Muse, an emergency medical specialist at Signature Healthcare Brockton Hospital, said in the university’s statement about the program. “There’s a drug you can give that reverses overdoses and gets victims breathing.”

Narcan, four-milligram nasal naloxone, is available through a partnership with the Police Assisted Addiction and Recovery Initiative (PAARI), who donated the drug. PAARI, who partners with police departments nationwide to help people connect with treatment services, began in Massachusetts where it is still based.

A 2015 survey by the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation found that nearly 16% of college-aged people in the U.S. said they had used opioids without a prescription, and almost 31% said they knew someone who had overdosed on such drugs. It's most concerning that 37% said they wouldn’t know where to go for help.

That’s where Bridgewater State is hoping to fill in the knowledge gap.

The school is calling its approach to combating the opioid crisis “prevention-by-education.” Its services don’t stop at making sure everyone on campus has access to Narcan—they are also offering free training for how to administer the drug, provide substance counseling for students and host discussions, panels, and educational events on-campus about opioids.

In an interview with the Boston Globe, Bridgewater State University Police Detective Sergeant Robert McEvoy said, “BSU is trying to be proactive in the prevention of opioid overdose. Narcan can stop an overdose but it can’t cure addiction, and that’s why we’re really trying to focus on the education aspect.”

In April, The Clinton Foundation and Adapt Pharma partnered in an effort to give colleges 40,000 doses of Narcan nasal spray. The American College Health Association (ACHA) recommends that college health centers add naloxone to their emergency toolkits, and make sure that staff have proper training in case of an opioid overdose.

BSU takes those recommendations a step further, ensuring that anyone on campus can access the lifesaving drug. On its Twitter account, the school said, “If a life is on the line, @BridgeStateU wants to be ready.”

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Britni de la Cretaz is a freelance writer, baseball enthusiast, and recovered alcoholic living in Boston. Follow her on Twitter at @britnidlc.