By Nathan Leakway
YORK COLLEGE of Pennsylvania in conjunction with The York Opioid Collaborative and the RASE Project has been hosting a string of Narcan training classes here at the college. Narcan is a nasal spray containing Naloxone, an opioid antagonist that rapidly reverses opioid overdose.
The final class will be held 5 to 6 p.m. Oct. 24th in Diehl Hall 145/146. Attendees will be educated on the signs of an opioid overdose as well as how to administer Narcan nasal spray. Those who complete the one-hour class will receive their own Narcan kit, which includes Narcan spray, gloves, and a rescue breathing mask.
Those interested can register online for the Oct. 24 class. Around 40 students are expected to attend.
Two sessions already have been held, on Sept. 29 and Oct. 4.
Sarah Martin, a junior Nursing major, organized the Narcan training as part of the 30 hours of community service she is required to do each semester as an Eisenhart Community Scholar.
“With my involvement as a scholar, I was able to make this project happen,” Martin says. “I build relationships with community members, find a need in the community or on campus, and help to implement change.”
Martin received Narcan training back in her home state of Maryland, and she views it as part of her continued education as a nursing major. “I know that drug abuse is something that goes hand in hand with healthcare,” she says. “My nursing experience has motivated me to pursue this outreach and set up classes for students that are nursing majors and those who are not.”
Martin says she is hopeful that these classes are the beginning of a continued effort to educate the YCP community on substance misuse and opioid overdose, and encourages those who attend to “spread awareness and tell others about what [they] learn.”
Alexis Lehman, a sophomore Nursing major, was one of the students in attendance during the first training class.
“I decided to take the Narcan training class to raise awareness about what goes on in our community,” she says. “It is very important to take this training, especially residing in York City. Being able to administer Narcan … makes me feel very useful, especially with the overdose rates increasing every day.”
According to information provided on yorkcity.org, death by drug overdose reached an all-time high in 2020 here in York County, an uptick that was partially attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2021 there were 132 “confirmed and probable” deaths due to overdose.
Lehman told The Spartan that the class educated her on not just how to administer the nasal spray but to recognize the symptoms of opioid overdose: small pupils, falling asleep, shallow breathing, and a purple or blue coloration to the skin. “I had many questions coming into this training, and every single one of them was answered,” Lehman says.
For junior Riley Wert, also a Nursing major, the decision to attend the class was a personal one.
“I know many who have lost loved ones to opioid overdoses, and know various people in active addiction,” she says. “I also live in an area where heroin use is still prevalent, so I want to be able to help my community in any way I can.”
Wert adds that she found the instructor, who shared her own struggle with opioids with the class, particularly inspiring, and that it offered a more personal glimpse into the effects of opioid addiction. “You never know who is struggling with addiction,” Wert says.
Martin worked with The York Opioid Collaborative and the RASE Project in order to find an instructor and organize the training.
Brittany Shutz, the executive director of the York Opioid Collaborative, told The Spartan that the York Opioid Collaborative is a non-profit organization whose mission is to coordinate and create collaborations that raise awareness and advocate for support for collective solutions for substance use in York County. Part of that mission includes providing “unbiased, relevant educational offerings … to various sectors of the community,” Shutz says.
The partnership between the York Opioid Collaborative and YCP to provide Narcan training is a new one, which was initiated by Martin. “She [Martin] felt that it was something students could benefit from because an overdose could happen anywhere, including a college campus,” Shutz says.
Shutz shares Martin’s belief that education of substance use disorders and recognizing opioid overdose is important for all college students, regardless of the field they intend to enter after graduation. “Regardless if you are entering healthcare, teaching, engineering, or human services, having an understanding of substance use disorders can be impactful in reducing the stigma, helping to prevent substance use, helping people access treatment and support, and helping to create a community supportive of recovery,” Shutz says.
Martin, Wert, and Lehman all wished to encourage students to attend the next week’s final training sessions.
“An overdose can happen in any setting,” Martin says. “Even though you may feel you have no use for Narcan, it is a good skill and resource to have for those around you. Drug abuse can easily be hidden, so always be aware and be there for friends and family.”
Those unable to attend on the 24th can obtain free Narcan training and kits here.
The York Opioid Collaborative also provides training and Narcan for free to York and Adams county through an online mail-based program called OPAL: Overdose Prevention Assistance Locally.
Nathan Leakway is a sophomore majoring in Professional Writing.