UWO aims to prevent overdoses

Anya Kelley, Assistant News Editor

In 2021, over 70,000 people died of synthetic drug overdoses —mainly fentanyl— in the United States, making it a notable killer of people ages 18-45.

UWO is urging students to become educated and aware of the symptoms of an overdose by providing free educational seminars to students and faculty as well as free Narcan located in various places around campus.

Chris Tarmann, acting chief of police at UWO, has been working hand-in-hand with administration to help make campus a safer place. 

“I think we have a high risk population who are going to come here and be here, oftentimes the first time without a parent or guardian,” Tarmann said. “And so they’re going to take a little higher risk on things. They may make some decisions that they maybe wouldn’t have made in the past.”

Tarmann explains that though there has not yet been an uptick in overdose cases on campus, the students are in a unique position of vulnerability. 

“We are trying to get ahead of making sure that people are aware. There is definitely future concern for students coming on and being vulnerable to all of this,” Tarmann said.

UWO wants students to know their rights in hopes that it will stop unnecessary deaths due to fear of authority. Medical amnesty allows for people to not be held liable for receiving medical help even if there has been illegal activity involved.

“Let’s just say that you and a friend are out or you have knowledge that your friend is using drugs … You can report that information if you have a valid concern about their well being and you’re both going to be protected,” Tarmann said.

Tarmann hopes that through drug-related education students will be more inclined to use the resources available to them. 

“The goal is not to get them arrested. I think that the most important thing for students to understand is that if you are going to ask for help, there’s a lot of protection there and people want to help you.” Tarmann said. 

UWO was the first of the UW system schools to install naloxone boxes on campus. They are located in every residence hall, typically near elevators or fire extinguishers. The boxes have a magnet on the door that alerts Voices of Recovery in Madison whenever opened. 

The alert is completely anonymous, there will be no investigation following. It is used as a resource for the university to know when they need to refill the Narcan supply. 

“We sponsored a program last year featuring two moms who lost their sons to fentanyl at UW Milwaukee,” Erin Grisham, the vice chancellor of student affairs, said. “That program also featured experts from the community regarding drug use, recovery experts and law enforcement. Naloxone boxes were offered to anyone who attended. People were trained on how to use Narcan.”

The university provides nasal Narcan. Each box contains two doses and in some cases, the person overdosing may need both. 

“These types of trainings during the spring of 2022 were well attended. The residence life staff was trained on how to use Narcan this fall, and more trainings for all staff and students are being planned for this academic year,” Grisham said. 

Grisham wants students to understand the dangers of fentanyl and where it can be found. 

“I hope students take the naloxone boxes to their off-campus houses so that life-saving opportunities are available off campus as well as on campus,” Grisham said. “It is important to give students the skills to help a friend and to have resources readily and affordably available.”

Grisham and Tarmann are hoping to hold another training session soon after students return from winter break. Until then, UWO has additional resources located at uwosh.edu/police/substancesafety/  including community outreach and addiction recovery resources. 

If you or a friend is struggling with drug addiction or illicit drug use, speak up and speak out. Protecting yourself and your peers is as easy as a single phone call.