Missouri Students Association representatives have been working since June to make Narcan available in MU residence halls to help prevent deaths from opioid overdoses.

Anthony Garcia, director of policy and advocacy for MSA, is trying to make Narcan nasal sprays available in every residence hall on MU’s campus. It would cost MU about $3,000 every two years to put the drug in all residence halls, Garcia said, because Narcan expires.

“It’s a no-brainer to do it,” Garcia said. “It’s a necessity with how bad the opioid crisis is.”

In 2017, Missouri had 952 overdose deaths involving opioids, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. From 2013-17, Boone County saw 51 deaths due to opioid overdoses.

Garcia said he would rather see MU be proactive than reactive to the opioid crisis. Garcia hopes that once Narcan is in residence halls, the change will set a precedent for other universities and the state of Missouri.

In 2017, the Missouri General Assembly passed a law to allow anyone to get naloxone, the drug in Narcan, from a pharmacy without a prescription. Some insurance providers will cover the costs, according to the Narcan website.

The MU Police, Columbia Police Department and Columbia Fire departments have Narcan on hand. The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse equipped and trained first responders on how to administer Narcan, said Brandon Costerison, MO-HOPE project manager for the NCADA.

MU Police spokeswoman Sara Diedrich said the department has never had to use Narcan.

However, Grant Mertz, deputy director of policy and advocacy for MSA, said the first response is the best response, meaning any medical attention, including Narcan, can help save a life before medical professionals arrive.

“We want to empower people with all the tools we can so that it’s easier for someone else to make a difference,” Mertz said.

Narcan can be given via a nasal spray or injection to treat an opioid emergency or overdose. Garcia and Mertz are only working to get the nasal spray on campus. There are no effects if administered to someone not experiencing an opioid overdose, according to Narcan’s website.

Naloxone begins to take effect within three to five minutes and lasts for 60 to 90 minutes, giving ample time for first responders to arrive and take the person to the hospital.

Garcia said he has received no negative feedback from students about the Narcan project and has had other organizations on campus reach out to get involved in fighting the opioid crisis. Bureaucracy is the only reason why it’s taken so long to get Narcan in residence halls, Garcia said.

Mertz and Garcia will meet with the MU Student Health Center, MU Police Department and MU Residential Life in the coming weeks to discuss final plans for Narcan implementation. Garcia said he plans to advocate for Narcan in Greek houses as well.

“Once we get this finished, we will celebrate and keep working,” Garcia said.

MO-HOPE’s Costerison said anyone can help fight the opioid crisis by locking medicine cabinets, refusing to share medications and disposing of expired and unused medications.

Supervising editor is Scott Swafford.

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  • Advanced public life reporter, spring 2019 Studying print and digital Journalism and Political Science You can reach me at laurenkbishop@mail.missouri.edu or in the newsroom at 573-882-5700.

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