With fentanyl found laced in London street drugs and national opioid use on the rise, Western University's Student Emergency Response Team is carrying Naloxone kits this year.
In August, Middlesex-London Health Unit trained SERT members to recognize the signs of opioid toxicity and to administer Naloxone, a live-saving medication that can reverse the effects of opiate overdoses. The measure came after London health providers reported fentanyl was showing up in London street drugs, such as marijuana and cocaine. Currently, the health unit has provided SERT with four Naloxone kits, according to director of Student Health Services Cynthia Gibney.
Recognizing the gravity of the opioid crisis, SERT’s outgoing executive director, Mike De Wit, helped devise a strategy with the team to prepare for the possibility of opioid toxicity on campus. Due to the intense high from opioids, opiate drugs are extremely addictive and overdoses can be fatal.
Western's proactive approach also differs from other Ontario universities, notably the University of Ottawa. The university made headlines last week after it forbid its student leaders from using Naloxone because the student federation determined it may be held liable if the antidote was administered improperly.
“On SERT, we are very fortunate to have two fantastic medical directors who have a great understanding ... of the demographic with whom we work and review all of our medical protocols, including Naloxone,” wrote Pardis Baha, student and executive director of SERT, in an email.
Baha assured that SERT continuously evaluates and updates their services to meet the changing safety needs of the campus. Contrary to the University of Ottawa, SERT has no concerns with liability because the organization developed their protocol with the support of the Middlesex London Health Unit, Western's Student Health Services and Western Housing.
Campus Police operations leader, Jean-Claude Aubin, said that Campus Police does not carry any Naloxone kits and has no plans to implement them. Since SERT and Thames Valley EMS are often the first responders for on-campus medical emergencies and are already trained in Naloxone administration, he sees no need for Campus Police to stock them.
According to Baha, SERT works with the university, Student Health Services, Campus Police and other services to ensure the safety of all Western students during Orientation Week and throughout the year.