It’s time to take a stand on the opioid epidemic
By: Gerald Fraas and Jonah Wendt
In the past year, over 33,000 Americans died as a result of an opioid overdose. They were victims of their addiction and the choices they made, but they didn’t have to be. Simple, easy to use, life-saving measures are out there. However, those in a position to address the issue, namely school administrators, fail to take action. At this point in time, there are only two sides in the opioid epidemic debate. Those who want action and those who ignore the problem in hopes that it will go away. We ask you to stand with us and demand proactive action now.
On September 11, 2017, we formed a new organization, Students for Opioid Solutions. We saw a lack of preventative action being taken by institutions of higher education as they fail to recognize opioid abuse as a real issue until it’s too late. At most institutions several students have to die before the school takes any action at all. The purpose of our organization is to force administrators to shift from being reactive to being proactive and preventative. We work to get students advocating on their campuses about the importance of taking commonsense steps towards addressing opioid overdoses.
The first step of this advocacy is in student governments. Student governments represent the interests of their students, and through the legislative process will put pressure on school administration.
Our plan for beginning to address this tragedy has five parts that will be enacted through student government legislation.
First, require that residential life staff (commonly known as residential advisors or residential mentors) and campus police officers receive training in the recognition of an opioid overdose.
Second, require that residential life members and campus police officers carry or have quick and easy access to naloxone- commonly known as Narcan- which is a quick acting antidote to opioid overdose.
Third, require schools to report all opioid overdoses and deaths in the annual drug and alcohol report. Currently, colleges and universities are not required to report non-criminal drug deaths to the federal government.
Fourth, enact a Good Samaritan policy to protect bystanders who provide aid in the case of an opioid overdose or report it to an employee of the school. Why punish an individual for trying to save their friends life?
Fifth, protect students from expulsion if the drugs used to overdose were illegally obtained. A student with an addiction needs treatment, not punishment.
By advocating for these simple policies, we can encourage our institutions to better protect the lives of our friends and classmates. These are not outlandish ideas, and have been implemented at several universities across the nation. The issue is that institutions do not recognize that the potential issue may become a reality on their campus, until it does. And too often when it is an issue, they still act as if harsh punishments are the solution. With the opioid epidemic becoming an ever more prominent issue across the nation, it’s critical that we as students rise up in an effort to better protect our peers.
While the prevention of every death is out of our grasp, we should do everything we can to prevent as many as possible. We ask you to stand with us today against opioid deaths on college campuses. We ask you to add your voice to ours now, and take preventative steps without waiting for the death of a friend to be the reason. We ask you to join us on our journey to end opioid deaths on college campuses by visiting our website, opioidsolutions.org. We need interns, student senators, and your generous financial support.