UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Penn State police officers at University Park will begin Feb. 23 to carry the drug naloxone, which can save a person’s life during an overdose.
Naloxone, also known by the brand name Narcan, is a prescription medicine that rapidly reverses overdoses by initiating withdrawal symptoms in individuals who have taken heroin and other forms of opiates. While the majority of overdoses are accidental, drugs like heroin, fentanyl and pill forms of opiates can be deadly when abused.
Campus officers will carry naloxone during each shift and will be trained by certified emergency personnel to recognize the signs and symptoms of heroin and opiate overdoses, as well as the protocols for when and how to administer the medication.
“The health and safety of our students, faculty, staff and visitors is Penn State’s first priority,” said Charlie Noffsinger, assistant vice president for University Police and Public Safety. “Given the rise in incidents of heroin and opiate abuse and fatal overdoses throughout the Commonwealth and the U.S., we believe it is in the best interest of our campus community for our emergency responders to be prepared and equipped to save lives. Providing these tools, protocols and training to our officers helps further our mission to protect the community.”
With more police departments around the country providing naloxone for on-patrol officers, Penn State police won’t be the only law enforcement group in the area to carry the life-saving drug.
Officers in State College and Bellefonte boroughs, and the surrounding townships of Ferguson, Patton and Spring, as well as the Centre County Sheriff’s Department and Pennsylvania State Police also have access to naloxone. Across the state, programs that provide naloxone to a wider group of first responders, including law enforcement and firefighters, are getting increased government support. In 2017, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf announced funding to provide 60,000 naloxone kits to first responders in all 67 counties of the Commonwealth to help combat the opioid crisis. Penn State’s naloxone is covered under a Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency grant.
“Penn State’s naloxone program enables the University to align our processes with those of the Commonwealth and offer the same safety services and tools to our campus community as what is available in nearby municipalities,” said Keith Morris, chief of police at University Park. “Having this tool in our officers’ hands enables them to not only save lives, but also to protect themselves in the event of an accidental drug exposure. While we hope it’s not something we’ll ever have to use, we know that seconds matter for overdose victims.”
While Penn State’s current focus is to implement the program at University Park, it is part of a larger initiative to make naloxone available at every Penn State campus serviced by University Police and Public Safety officers. Already, officers at Penn State Berks, Great Valley and Erie carry naloxone, as do campus paramedics at University Park. The drug also is available for emergency use at University Health Services.
“While it’s so important for our officers to be prepared for any situation, we always encourage students, faculty and staff members, who may be struggling with substance abuse or addiction to seek help,” Morris said.
As part of the University’s commitment to the health and safety of every student, faculty and staff member, Penn State has a number of programs in place for those who need help and guidance around substance abuse, including the following student resources:
- Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS)
- CAPS Self-Help Resources
- Penn State Collegiate Recovery Community
- Health Promotion and Wellness
In addition, faculty and staff members can use the Employee Assistance Program, a free, confidential resource available to all benefits-eligible employees, their spouses, dependent children, parents and parents-in-law. Assistance on a variety of work, life and health topics, including drug and alcohol abuse, is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Those who witness or experience a drug overdose should call 9-1-1 immediately. Pennsylvania’s Good Samaritan Law and Penn State’s Responsible Action Protocol offer certain protections for those who seek help for themselves or others in the event of an overdose.