Amid the opioid crisis, organizations on campus have been working to make naloxone, a drug that reverses the effects of an opiate overdose, more accessible to students and the community.
Currently, McMaster students who are not at risk of an overdose are unable to pick up a free naloxone kit anywhere on campus. The pharmacy in the McMaster University Student Centre and Student Wellness Centre do not carry the kit as a result of logistical issues.
McMaster students can pick up a naloxone kit at the Shoppers Drug Mart on Main Street West, but they need to disclose their Ontario Health Insurance Plan number to get one for free.
Students can also get a kit from Hamilton Public Health, but only if they meet the city’s eligibility guidelines, which specify that kits can only be provided to individuals who have experience with opioid use or are at high risk of overdose.
“Eligibility guidelines are in place as a means to ensure that naloxone kits are available for those who are most impacted by overdose,” said Sharalyn Penner-Cloutier, temporary supervisor of harm reduction at Hamilton Public Health.
However, groups on campus have been working to ensure that naloxone is available at the university.
“As a whole, we advocate for the concept of accessible naloxone kits, and having them available on campus to students in addition to EFRT responders would certainly be valuable.”
Student Health Education Centre
The McMaster Students Union Emergency First Response Team stocked up on naloxone in September 2017, obtaining both the injection and nasal spray version.
“As of yet, we have not had to administer naloxone but we continue to practice our protocol in the event that we ever encounter an opioid overdose,” said Dunavan Morris-Janzen, EFRT Public Relations Coordinator.
According to Glenn De Caire, director of security and parking, McMaster Security has been working to ensure that security special constables will carry the drug on duty by April 2018.
In November 2017, MSU Student Health Education Centre spearheaded a harm reduction campaign. One of their pillars aimed at educating students on the signs of opiate overdose and where they can pick up a naloxone kit close to the university.
“As a whole, we advocate for the concept of accessible naloxone kits, and having them available on campus to students in addition to EFRT responders would certainly be valuable,” said Sutina Chou, SHEC coordinator.
More recently, on Jan. 22, the McMaster Undergraduate Nursing Student Society hosted a free naloxone training event for nursing students in the Michael DeGroote Centre for Learning and Discovery building.
The event was organized by the MUNSS after Sarah Vance, one of the group’s Education Chairpersons, identified that hundreds students were interested in a naloxone training event hosted by the Mental Health Rights Coalition in Hamilton, which took place on Jan. 24 and was facilitated by Hamilton Public Health.
“After seeing [the high demand for the event], I called Hamilton Public Health and the Harm Reduction Team and was given contact information for Margot Corbin, the Public Health Nurse. This training was free from Public Health,” said Vance.
The MUNSS’s event consisted of a discussion on the opioid epidemic, signs of overdose and how students are able to assist in a civilian capacity.
“The turnout for the event was successful. We had requests for attendance from various faculties such as BScN, RPN to BScN, RPN, and Medicine. We even had requests for attendance from students who did not attend McMaster, Mohawk or Conestoga,” said Vance.
The MUNSS will be hosting another training event on Feb. 26 in MDCL.
Opioid use continues to be on the rise in Hamilton, with our rate of use still being higher that of the province. Nevertheless, campus groups are educating students about naloxone and fighting to end the epidemic.