This Mississippi university is the first to place Narcan emergency kits in residence halls
Published 10:54 am Monday, October 30, 2023
The University of Southern Mississippi’s commitment to ensuring the safety and well-being of all students has been fortified with the placement of permanent emergency kits containing Narcan medication in residence halls on the Hattiesburg campus. Narcan, also known by its clinical name Naloxone, is a medicine that rapidly reverses an opioid overdose.
USM is the first State Institutions of Higher Learning university to make the Overdose Emergency Kits stocked with Narcan, instructions for use and CPR mask available in campus housing.
The Moffitt Health Center initiative was made possible by a $43,000 grant from the Jimmy A. Payne Foundation, through the USM Foundation. With the grant funding, USM purchased 50 Overdose Emergency Kits to be mounted in residence halls and public common areas on campus.
The grant also provided funding for the purchase of 300 doses of Narcan – 50 of which will be available in the emergency kits, with the remaining 250 to be reserved for students who have undergone Narcan training. An additional 316 doses have been provided to the University through the Mississippi State Department of Health (MSDH) Pharmacy for faculty and staff.
“The generosity of the Jimmy A. Payne Foundation cannot be understated. Its long-lasting impact and dedication to Southern Miss are inspiring in supporting as many students as possible,” said JR Gerhart, Corporate and Foundation Relations Officer for the USM Foundation.
Narcan works as an opioid antagonist, attaching to opioid receptors, while reversing and blocking the effects of other opioids. Narcan can quickly restore normal breathing to a person if breathing has slowed or stopped because of an opioid overdose.
“As an emergency medicine physician, I see drug overdoses on a regular basis in the ER, but the volume of opioid overdoses in young adults has increased exponentially over the past few years with the surge of fentanyl being trafficked in communities across the USA,” said Dr. Melissa Roberts, Moffitt Health Center Executive Director.
Added Roberts, “College is a time of exploration and experimentation for many young adults which often leads to high-risk behaviors. One life lost to a drug overdose is one too many. “As Executive Director of Moffitt Health Center, I am determined to make sure that we implement prevention and harm reduction strategies, including having Narcan readily available, which could potentially save a life in the event of an opioid overdose.”
From March 2021 to March 2022, 109,000 people died from opioid overdoses in the United States. Drug overdoses are now the leading cause of injury-related deaths in the United States, and young adults ages 18–25 are the biggest users of prescription drugs for nonmedical purposes.
According to The Mississippi Substance Use Surveillance System, the number of deaths involving synthetic opioids (e.g., fentanyl) in Mississippi from 2020 to 2021 spiked by 51%. Alarmingly, one out of every three overdose deaths in Mississippi in 2021 occurred among people younger than 35 years of age and deaths involving synthetic opioids such as fentanyl accounted for 60% of drug-related fatalities.
Melanie Blanton, Health Education Coordinator at Moffitt Health Center/Student Health Services, spearheaded efforts to secure the Payne Foundation grant. “As a nurse, I am responsible for health education across the campus.,” said Blanton. “This project has become a cornerstone of my work.”
The project involved meticulous planning for the strategic placement of the Overdose Emergency Kits, procuring the necessary supplies, engaging with campus leaders to schedule training sessions, and embarking on an extensive educational campaign about Narcan for the entire University community.
“The commitment to this initiative goes beyond the current semester and year; it is an ongoing mission,” said Blanton. “We will persist in educating and training all University members, ensuring they are well-versed in Narcan, its application, and the broader issues surrounding substance abuse and overdose.”
All USM Residence Life staff and Resident Assistants have been trained to administer the Narcan nasal spray. The full-time administrative team, as well as several maintenance team members will receive training. Each Overdose Emergency Kit includes two doses of Narcan, a CPR mask, as well as voice and written directions on how to administer the medicine.
Teresa Crum, Executive Director of Housing and Residence Life at USM, points out that the kits have been placed in the following residence halls: Scott, Vann, Luckday, Century Park North (1-4), Hillcrest, McCarty, Wilbur and Hattiesburg. She notes that more could be added in the future.
“Overdose Emergency Kits have been placed in the lobby areas,” said Crum. “Each building is unique in its lobby layout and therefore the staff tried to identify a location that would be visible.”
Blanton explains that Moffitt Health Center has been approached by other campus units that received Narcan from the MSDH Pharmacy, about training in the drug’s use. She states that later into the current semester and into the next semester Moffitt Health Center will offer trainings on campus that anyone may attend.
In a related development, Narcan is now available over-the-counter at stores like CVS, Walgreens, Rite Aid, and Walmart. This comes five months after the United States Food and Drug Association ruled it can be distributed without a prescription.
Blanton emphasizes that having Overdose Emergency Kits placed campus-wide is a significant step in ensuring the safety and well-being of USM students.
“These kits provide a crucial lifeline in the event of an opioid overdose, which is a medical emergency that can occur unexpectedly,” said Blanton. “By having Narcan readily available in easily accessible locations across the campus, we are equipping our Eagles with the tools to potentially save lives.”