SUNY Oswego’s campus community undergoes Naloxone training

OSWEGO, N.Y. — Before the start of the fall semester, SUNY Oswego’s resident assistants, staff and faculty were given the opportunity to learn how to spot an opioid overdose, administer naloxone and look after the victim until emergency services arrive. 

Making the nasal spray available without a personal prescription increases its accessibility to anyone at risk of an overdose. It adds another layer of aid to many campus communities. 

Trisha DeWolf, assistant dean of students for alcohol and drug education, has conducted about 200 training sessions for both students and staff since 2021. She said there are advantages to training sessions and how they improve health on campuses everywhere. 

“We’ve lost students in the past due to heroin overdose and I can tell you that it was a horrible tragedy,” said DeWolf. “The only good thing that came out of it was we were more open in talking about opioids and how to prevent tragedies like that.” 

While administering it can do no damage but a lot of good, especially saving a person’s life, she encourages individuals to get trained and carry a naloxone kit.

In March, the Food and Drug Administration approved naloxone as an over-the-counter medication. This occurred as a result of a spike in opioid overdose deaths, which is mainly attributable to synthetic substances like fentanyl.

Resident assistant Eloni Zepeda, says the training that all RAs received is one step closer to addressing the more significant issue of substance and addiction contributing to the development of mental illnesses.

“This is one of the first steps that we have, especially when we start focusing on mental health,” said Zepeda. “We do a lot of talks on mental health but not many preventative things when you add mental health with certain additives such as naloxone. They work hand in hand and it’s necessary to be able to save a life, so this is a good start.” 

Tiffany Truong, a resident assistant at Onondaga Hall, said the naloxone training was an hour-long session where RAs like herself were instructed when and how to administer the nasal spray. 

The average time for an ambulance to arrive is seven minutes, according to the National Library of Medicine. However, an RA can run down the hallway in one.

Truong said that training assures students in residence halls are better safeguarded in the event of an emergency. Being that RAs are the first point of contact for students, they are in a unique position to take action in an emergency. She added that this new training will ensure that they are prepared to help those in need.

“As RAs, we are also known as the first line for student resources and help,” said Truong. “With that relationship, I think that it’s essential that RAs are capable of handling the situation before higher-ups are aware of it. Additionally, I believe that residents feel more at ease addressing RAs in such critical situations.”

Often, stigma prevents people from getting the treatment they need. Small residential communities can break down social barriers that prevent people from reaching out by talking about addiction and allowing individuals to feel comfortable.

According to Angela Brown, director of student health services, there haven’t been any reported overdoses requiring naloxone on campus. Brown said that she has not been notified as of yet to replace a kit that has been used for an overdose. 

However, as the nasal spray provider on campus, she explains the need for educating individuals on campus. 

“I think is it really, really good for people to know just in case it is ever needed,” said Brown. “In case there is an emergency I much rather have everybody on campus know how to use it and have it available.” 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, if an overdose is suspected, it is advised to first call 911 and then administer naloxone. Next, it is important to keep the person awake and breathing until help arrives.

DeWolf says with some basic guidelines for recognizing the signs and symptoms of an opioid overdose. 

“Specifically for physical symptoms, you can even tell in their nail beds they may turn blue or purple,” said DeWolf. “You can check via their pulse points, their breathing may link to that as well. Lastly, if their pupils are tiny it can also indicate an opioid overdose.”

Dewolf said she intends to make the campus community a safer place for individuals and looks forward to training more students, staff and faculty on this life-saving initiative. 

“I believe that increased training will raise awareness, demonstrate the hazards of drugs and keep people away in the first place.”