By Brooke Schultz
When it came to preparing for the academic year, a new layer was added to the mix: the Start Talking Maryland Act.
The bill, which became effective July 1, expanded drug addiction and prevention education. It now requires public schools to carry naloxone, or Narcan, a drug that reverses the effects of an overdose. It also mandates inclusion of opioid education programming.
For Washington College, it didn’t change the practice or procedures, said Director of Public Safety Gerald Roderick, but it has led to an increase in number of Narcan doses that Public Safety officers carry.
“We were led to believe in our initial training three years ago that you only needed to carry one dose of Narcan to revive an individual. What we’ve since learned is that it sometimes takes multiple doses of Narcan to bring somebody back,” he said.
Roderick said there is also concern for first responders who experienced symptoms of an overdose after becoming exposed to fentanyl, a drug that is far more potent than heroin.
“[First responders] sometimes needed Narcan to be revived,” he said. “Not only are we carrying it for addicts, we’re carrying it for first responders who might find themselves in trouble.”
The officers now have multiple doses, he said, with one to two on their person, and extra doses in the vehicle.
Roderick said that WC has carried Narcan for three years after an incident involving a student in 2014.
During a traffic stop that year, a student was found in possession of heroin, he said. The student went through a treatment program at home, and later overdosed. Roderick said this was a wakeup call for the department.
In the time since, Public Safety has never had to administer Narcan, Roderick said, but they have had several overdose incidents on-campus.
Last January, a non-student overdosed in campus housing. Narcan was administered by a first responder.
This past spring, during two separate incidents, local individuals experienced symptoms of an overdose and were transported to the University of Maryland Shore Medical Center at Chestertown for treatment.
Due to the statewide opioid epidemic, there is a lot of community outreach going on, Roderick said. On campus, the education component is still being developed, Rachel Boyle, director of prevention education an advocacy.
“We have some online required courses with, you know, Think About It, which is a campus clarity program,” she said. “It touches a little bit about drugs, prescription drugs, but not thoroughly. That has been a conversation I’ve had with Dean [Sarah] Feyerherm, looking at some other opportunities, benchmarking with some other institutions in Maryland to see what other institutions are looking to do.”
Slated for Nov. 17, Boyle is working with the community to bring the documentary “Written Off,” which details a young man’s struggle with heroin, to campus. The project is still early in the planning phases.
For Boyle, awareness is key, she said.
“For students, I think it’s being able to not be expected to solve all of it, but being equipped to identify troubling situations, circumstances, that you may be on the ground seeing,” she said. “A lot of what’s going on now is just the unmasking of this epidemic itself.”