Fairfield U. hosts opioid awareness event
Published 6:41 pm, Tuesday, November 7, 2017
FAIRFIELD — Fr. Michael Doody seemed calm as he administered Narcan to an overdose patient Tuesday afternoon in Fairfield University’s Barone Campus Center.
“I just put it in the nostril here, and I compress?” Doody asked campus police officer Patrick Cleary, as he stuck the nasal spray — which counteracts the effect of an opioid overdose — in the nose of the unresponsive patient.
“That’s it,” Cleary said encouragingly.
The two men’s calm demeanors were largely due to the fact that their “victim” was a CPR dummy, which was spread out on a table in the Barone Center.
Cleary was teaching Doody, the university’s director of restorative mentoring, how to administer Narcan as members of the university’s residence life staff looked on. Most of those gathered were preparing to get certified in giving the medication, and to get their own Narcan kit.
The training was part of Fairfield University’s “Overdose Awareness and Prevention Day,” which aimed to help spread information about the dangers of opioid use, and the epidemic of fatal drug overdoses.
The program was made possible through a $10,000 grant to Fairfield U.’s Counseling and Psychological Services, provided as part of the Statewide Healthy Campus Initiative, launched by the Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services. The money was intended to be used for opioid awareness initiatives.
In addition to the Narcan demonstration, the day’s events included a screening of the documentary “If They Had Known,” about a fatal overdose, and a campus vigil.
“This is part of Fairfield U.’s efforts to address the (opioid crisis) head-on,” said Susan Birge, assistant vice president and director of counseling and psychological services at the university.
Birge pointed out the 917 purple flags that dotted the campus’s traffic circle Tuesday. “Each flag represents a person in the state who died of an overdose last year,” she said.
According to the state medical examiner’s office, many of those death involved opioids, including heroin — which was involved in 508 deaths — and fentanyl, an emerging drug threat that was involved in 483 deaths.
The medical examiner’s office predicts the state will have more than 1,000 overdose deaths by the end of this year.
Though drug overdoses haven’t yet been a problem on Fairfield U.’s campus, Birge said it’s important for faculty, staff and students to be educated on these issues and to be prepared in the event of an emergency. Cleary said most campus police carry Narcan and have for roughly two years.
In his demonstration, Cleary said one of the benefits of Narcan is that it combats overdoses from not just heroin or fentanyl, but from an opioid, including prescription painkillers. Though, to his knowledge, heroin is not an issue at Fairfield U., “there are students on campus who live with chronic pain,” and take medication.
“Just because there is no known heroin use in an area doesn’t mean there is not a problem,” Cleary said.
Doody, meanwhile, found the Narcan training useful and important for those who work with students.
“This is a critical piece of equipment on a college campus,” he said. “Anything that can help prevent a death is a critical tool.”