Campus police and medical personnel at 16 Connecticut State Colleges and Universities will begin carrying a life-saving medication this semester.
The FDA-approved nasal spray known as Naloxone or Narcan reverses the effects of an overdose.
Overdose deaths in Connecticut have increased from 729 in 2015 to 917 in 2016. They are projected to reach 1078 in 2017 based on the overdose deaths in the first six months.
CSCU officials said on-campus instances of drug overdoses are extremely low, but the opioid-related deaths nationwide initiated the decision to have Narcan available.
“It is an amazing medication because it fixes in a fairly efficient way, very frequently, a problem that would otherwise kill somebody,” said Richard Kamin, the EMS medical director for the Connecticut Department of Public Health.
First responders like Hartford Deputy Fire Chief William Kerr have seen first-hand the life-saving effects of Narcan.
“Since the inception of us carrying Narcan, which was 2016 [in] November, we’ve had over 500 calls for it. Unfortunately, we’ve even had the same person in the same day. So it’s a great tool to help save lives. Unfortunately, we need to do something besides this,” Kerr said.
Kerr was hoping to discuss other treatments and methods that would help drug users at a forum Wednesday morning. UConn Health and the Department of Public Health’s Office of Emergency Medical Services hosted the forum for about 100 first responders from across the state.
“This is a disease that affects people’s brains, not simply a good or bad decision to use drugs,” Kamin said.
Police officers at the four CSCU universities — Central, Southern, Eastern and Western — and four CSCU community colleges with a police force — Naugatuck Valley, Capital, Gateway and Manchester — will act as first responders at each of those campuses. At the remaining eight community colleges without a police force, specific staff trained in responding to health crises or other campus leaders will be appointed to administer Narcan.
“I think it’s good. I think it’s going to save a lot of lives,” said AJ Messana, a CCSU student from Newington.
“I think it’s a really good thing. Just like a defibrillator or something we need to be able to deal with emergency care on the spot,” said Garland Eastman, a CCSU student from Farmington.
Each of the four Connecticut State Universities will receive an initial quantity of four doses per semester, and the doses administered will be replenished as they are used.
By the end of the semester, each of the 12 community colleges will be provided with two doses per semester for administration on their campuses. A dose of Narcan is good for about 24 months.