POTSDAM — Both St. Lawrence County state colleges have been provided with naloxone, an opiate overdose-reversing antidote that already has saved many lives across the country, for the upcoming academic year, though neither college had any opiate-related student deaths last year.
Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman and SUNY Purchase President Thomas J. Schwarz together announced last week that 12 SUNY campuses — including Potsdam and Canton — will join the Community Overdose Prevention program, which Mr. Schneiderman calls essential to fighting the current statewide heroin overdose epidemic.
“In just the past year, we’ve seen multiple students overdose on SUNY campuses — a tragic reminder that the crisis we’ve seen in the news is not so far from our students’ dorm rooms,” Mr. Schneiderman said in a news release last week. “Making naloxone available to campus police could save students’ lives and give them a second chance.”
Grants from Mr. Schneiderman’s office, which come from his Community Overdose Prevention program, will provide campus police at SUNY colleges with kits of naloxone. Grant funding for kits comes from money seized from criminals, providing SUNY police with about $27,000 to purchase kits for the 2014-15 academic year.
About half of SUNY police officers will get the kits. SUNY Potsdam and SUNY Canton, which have a total of 24 officers, will be equipped with one kit per officer, according to John A. Kaplan, university police chief for both schools.
The first round of kits and training is free. After that the colleges must pay to replace them.
Each kit contains two syringes of naloxone, two atomizers, sterile gloves and a booklet on how the drug is used. Kits cost about $60, and have a shelf life of approximately two years.
Though neither college had opiate overdoses last year, each had incidents involving heroin confiscation, according to Mr. Kaplan.
“Many, many communities throughout the state are struggling with heroin and a variety of other drugs, of course, and we’re not immune to it,” he said.
Officers will prevent a possible overdose with the kits by responding to a report of an unresponsive person, determining through questioning and evaluation of circumstances at the scene that it is an overdose and then administering the drug.
“It’s really case specific and dependent upon the facts,” Mr. Kaplan said.
Colleges also will train resident assistants to identify risk factors, warning signs and whether or not someone is using opiates according to an awareness campaign begun in June by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, according to Dr. Richard E. Moose, director of student health services at SUNY Potsdam.
He also said the campuses want to reduce barriers to saving lives by not charging any students or bystanders who report an overdose, even if they have used a drug themselves, according to the state’s 911 Good Samaritan Law.