Pitzer Student Senate approves bill to buy opioid overdose reversal medication

The Pitzer Student Senate unanimously voted to provide opioid overdose protection kits on campus. (Courtesy: Tom Wolf via Flickr)

In response to the opioid epidemic gripping the country, Pitzer College’s Student Senate unanimously passed a bill March 3 to use $500 of its reserve funds to buy 12 doses of naloxone, a non-prescription nasal spray that can save the lives of people who overdose on opioids.

The resident assistant on duty will carry two doses of the naloxone spray, two doses will be kept in the Mead Hall lobby, two in the demonstration kitchen in West Hall, two at the East Sanborn Hall emergency phone and the remainder in the Residence Life office in East Sanborn, according to the bill.

Visual instructions will be kept with the sprays, allowing untrained students to administer them, according to senator Claire Wengrod PZ ’19, a co-sponsor of the bill.

Wengrod said she had been interested in pursuing this proposal for a few years.

“The growing possibility that [opioid overdoses] could affect our community is scary and I want Pitzer and the Claremont Colleges to be prepared to help students,” she said. “It feels like something that is necessary to have easily accessible on Pitzer’s campus [and] college campuses in general.”

The locations in West and East Sanborn do not require swipe access, which would allow students from other campuses or students who don’t have their ID to get the naloxone, according to Wengrod.

Naloxone is meant to provide only temporary medical assistance, and students would be encouraged to call 911 or Campus Safety after administering it, said Rebecca Zimmerman PZ ’21, the representative who proposed the bill.

“The growing possibility that [opioid overdoses] could affect our community is scary and I want Pitzer and the Claremont Colleges to be prepared to help students.” — Claire Wengrod PZ’ 19

Campus Safety officers started carrying doses of naloxone with them last November, according to Ernie Didier, a Campus Safety captain.

“Our department is one of the very first private public safety agencies in California to gain full certification and approval by the Los Angeles County Department of Health [to carry naloxone],” Didier said via email. “There are several training, policy and reporting requirements we needed to satisfy before we could gain our own program certification.”

Campus Safety has not yet had to use any of the medication, he said.

About one in five college students said they knew someone who was addicted to pain medications, according to a 2018 Penn State study. Misuse of prescription drugs is highest among individuals ages 18 to 25, with nearly 15 percent reporting non-medical use in the past year, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported at least 47,600 opioid overdose deaths in 2017 and listed California as having a 4.5 percent increase in deaths from 2016 to 2017. No specific statistics about opioid abuse at the 5Cs are available, according to Wengrod.

Wengrod said that Massachusetts colleges providing naloxone contributed to her interest in passing this bill.

In 2017, Bridgewater State University became the first college to provide naloxone publicly on campus. A program in Massachusetts reduced opioid overdose deaths by an estimated 11 percent in the 19 communities that provided naloxone without increasing opioid use, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Wengrod said having naloxone available and monitoring how frequently it is used could provide a better picture of how serious the opioid abuse problem is at the 5Cs.

“A good way to gauge [the prevalence] is to have it available and now if something were to happen and someone used it, we would be able to gain a better idea of if this is something that the school needs to address more,” Wengrod said.

The bill also proposes that Pitzer incorporate training sessions into its New Student Orientation to inform students about the signs of opioid overdose and how to administer naloxone.

Under the bill’s provisions, students would have complete medical amnesty for using the naloxone, meaning they would not receive disciplinary penalties for using it, according to Zimmerman. Pitzer’s policies already provide medical amnesty for alcohol and drug cases.

Zimmerman and Wengrod said they will be in contact with Pitzer’s chief of staff and legal counsel to discuss potential legal implications before purchasing the naloxone.

Associate Dean of Students Kirsten Carrier said she supported the bill, but noted that both Pitzer’s legal team and Human Resources office would have to approve the plan.

Zimmerman hopes to have the naloxone in place before the end of this year, although Carrier said the plan might take more time.

“The institution has to get on board and that takes a longer haul,” Carrier said. “There’s significant hurdles you have to jump if you’re the first of the [5Cs] to have it.”

This article was updated March 6 at 9:10 p.m. to place a correct photo of the overdose reversal medication.

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