The Fairfield University community came together on Nov. 7 to observe a day of opioid awareness.
The Fairfield University community came together on November 7 to observe a day of opioid awareness. Counseling and Psychological Services, Collegiate Recovery Program, Fairfield University Student Association (FUSA), Campus Ministry, the Student Health Center, and the Dean of Students office co-sponsored an Opioid Awareness and Prevention Day Program. The day highlighted the national opioid crisis with activities and education to heighten prevention as well as increase access to treatment and recovery. The theme for the day was, “Everyone Knows Someone.”
The Opioid Awareness and Prevention Day Program was made possible due to the $10,000 grant to Fairfield University’s Counseling and Psychological Services for opioid awareness initiatives, as part of the Statewide Healthy Campus Initiative, launched by the Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services in 2004. The program focused on increasing awareness of the potential for fatal overdose and increasing access to treatment through education about the availability of resources on campus for struggling or addicted students.
“Our hope was to raise awareness about the dangers of alcohol and drug abuse, to get information out about campus health and mental resources, and to emphasize the availability of NARCAN with Public Safety and the Health Center. This collaborative effort, involving many campus departments and funded by a Connecticut Healthy Initiative grant, accomplished our goals,” said Assistant Vice President and Director of Counseling and Psychological Services, Susan Birge, EdD, MS, LPC.
To remember all those who died of drug overdoses in Connecticut last year, 917 purple flags were placed on the campus’ traffic circle. According to Connecticut Medical Examiner Dr. James Gill, the projection for overdose deaths in 2017 is 1,078, an 18 percent increase over last year. According to the Centers for Disease Control, “Drug overdose deaths in the United States more than tripled from 1999 to 2015,” and the Police Executive Research Forum reported that in 2016, “nearly as many people died from opioid overdoses as all U.S. fatalities during the entire course of the Vietnam War.” Educating faculty, staff, and students about prevention and on-campus support was a major goal of this program.
Fairfield’s Opioid Awareness and Prevention Day included a Narcan demonstration by the Department of Public Safety in the Barone Campus Center. Officers informed the campus community of the availability of Narcan on campus to save lives – all public safety and Health Center employees have been trained to administer Narcan. Informational booths were located in both the RecPlex and the Dolan School of Business throughout the day; a vigil was held by campus ministry in the traffic circle; and the day concluded with a documentary screening of If They Had Known which tells the story about the fatal overdose of a University of Denver sophomore and the tragic risks of today’s party culture.
At the conclusion of the event, Birge stated “I doubt that there is one member of our campus community who, after the event, is not aware of the opioid epidemic and Fairfield University’s efforts to inform and save lives.”
By Alicia Phaneuf '19