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UM Combats Opioid Overdose with Fentanyl Awareness, Narcan Training

By Erin Garrett

University of Mississippi

Mississippi Attorney General Lynn Fitch announces the launch of ‘One Pill Can Kill,’ an initiative to fight the fentanyl crises in Mississippi, on Thursday (Oct. 5) at the University of Mississippi. The initiative is intended to educate Mississippians on the dangers of fentanyl and provide resources to combat opioid overdoses in the state. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

 Combining prevention with intervention, the University of Mississippi is working with student leadership and the Mississippi Attorney General’s Office to address opioid overdose.

On Thursday (Oct. 5), the William Magee Center for AOD and Wellness Education trained nearly 100 Ole Miss student leaders in the dangers of fentanyl and how to use naloxone to combat an overdose. Due to rising opioid overdoses on college campuses across the nation, the Mississippi State Department of Health is allocating naloxone to universities in the state.

The event is a meaningful moment in the life of the university, Chancellor Glenn Boyce said.

“With a little training and the right supplies, each of us will make a difference and perhaps save a life,” Boyce said.

“It is empowering for us as citizens, family members and friends that we can combat this crisis facing our state and nation and take these essential steps to prevent the loss of life and the loss of loved ones.”

Synthetic opioid fentanyl, which is 100 times more potent than morphine, was responsible for 237 deaths in Mississippi last year, according to the Attorney General’s office. Naloxone is the only medication that can reverse the effects of an opioid overdose.

The Magee Center is spearheading the distribution of naloxone on campus.

“This is such an important part of this initiative,” said Shannon Richardson, assistant director of the Magee Center. “In order to increase naloxone accessibility on campus, we are training leaders who have access to large groups of students – such as resident assistants, Greek chapter representatives, Associated Student Body officers and Graduate Student Council officers.”

Students from the School of Pharmacy gave the leaders hands-on training in administering Narcan, the nasal spray form of naloxone.

Maddie Trapani, second-year pharmacy student from Pass Christian, said she was thankful for the opportunity to teach her peers.

“In this day and age, it’s so prevalent in – especially the younger college community – to witness an overdose or know somebody who has experienced that,” Trapani said.

“It’s really important to be able to understand how to give this medication and the importance of having it on you at all times. It’s such an easy thing to know how to do.”

It was significant for students to lead the hands-on training, said Chloe Bergman, second-year pharmacy student from Perryville, Missouri.

“I feel like we can relate to the students that we’re teaching,” Bergman said. “We know what’s going on on campus and in Oxford, so we can really tell them how to react in those situations.”

Each student participant received resource bags with fentanyl harm reduction kits and one box of Narcan. The kits include fentanyl test strips, a drug safe disposal bag and a pill identification card. The card illustrates ways to determine whether a pill is a legitimate drug or an illicit one potentially manufactured with fentanyl.

Frederick Johnson, a sophomore biology major from Leakesville, participated in the event as a Beta Theta Pi chair.

“I’m all about being prepared for anything that happens,” Johnson said. “It’s good to have this Narcan training because you are introduced to a lot of those different types of drugs at college, and you need to be prepared to help anyone that needs more help.”

Dylan Dietz, sophomore general business major from Atlanta, also attended as a chair of Beta Theta Pi.

“We are in a fraternity with about 200 people,” Dietz said. “If two of us now learn and know what we’re doing, we can go and teach 50 more.

“So if we’re at an event, we can help save a life. You take one hour here and that helps you save one or two lives in the future. And then you can go teach more people the same thing and help them save lives and just spread it.”

Earlier in the day, state Attorney General Lynn Fitch announced her “One Pill Can Kill” initiative during a press conference on campus.

“We want to educate, support and empower all Mississippians on the dangers of fentanyl – on the methods for identifying fentanyl and on what to do when you encounter it or you encounter someone who may be overdosing,” Fitch said.

“We’ve become sadly accustomed to losing our loved ones to overdose. It’s time we fight back.”

Sen. Nicole Boyd (R-Ninth District) was instrumental in passing legislation to decriminalize fentanyl test strips. She said the fight against fentanyl is a continuous one.

“It’s going to require probably additional legislation and additional resources,” Boyd said. “We are here in the fight with you. We are here in the fight with Attorney General Lynn Fitch because it’s so important.

“It has become personal for most of us in this room, and we will continue to make sure that we can do everything possible because we are going to win this fight.”

The university is committed to helping students manage and maintain their total well-being, Boyce said. That includes addressing challenges that can have the most harmful effects on them.

“(Fentanyl) knows no boundaries, impacts Americans from all walks of life and includes some of the most beloved souls in our university community,” Boyce said. “The DEA reports that fentanyl is now the leading cause of death for adults ages 18 to 45 in the United States, striking down young people in the prime of their lives.

“College students and college campuses have been hit particularly hard by this epidemic.”

Beginning Friday (Oct. 6), Narcan will be available free to all students through the Magee Center. To request a box, visit the center during office hours. For more information, visit its website. Students are not required to provide any personal information to request the medication.

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