In conjunction with the Jan. 1 California Senate Bill 367, which aims to end opioid overdoses at public colleges and universities in the state by requiring them to keep opioid reversal drugs on campus, the California Department of Public Health, or CDPH, has attempted to increase access to Naloxone, one such reversal drug.
According to CDPH, data indicates that there have been around 6,843 deaths related to opioid overdose in 2021, with around 84% of those deaths related to fentanyl.
The bill, also known as the Campus Opioid Safety Act, requires community college districts, California State Universities and the UC system to provide a combination of educational information and reversal medications.
As part of these efforts, CDPH has attempted to distribute material about opioid overdose, as well as the use and location of Naloxone, to students.
Campus University Health Services, or UHS, has provided resources like Naloxone and fentanyl testing strips through their Harm Reduction Expansion Program, or HREP, predating Bill 367.
They work with groups like PartySafe@Cal, FentCheck and the Collegiate Recovery Program.
According to an email statement from UHS spokesperson Tami Cate, students can access free Naloxone at the Health Promotion Department or at Sproul Hall. She said it will be available at the UHS pharmacy beginning in mid-March.
Through federal and state funding, CDPH’s Naloxone Distribution Project provides colleges and universities with Naloxone at no cost.
Additionally, the HREP provides workshops and consultations to student groups as well.
ASUC Senator Tyler Mahomes established an End Overdose chapter on campus during the fall 2022 semester, hoping to make resources available to students and destigmatize conversations around overdose and drug use.
“What End Overdose at Cal does, largely, is to let people know when to intervene and how to [do so],” Mahomes said. “Since we’re seeing an increase in overdoses, especially in at-risk, young populations, this information is vital for people to know and it’s life saving.”
Mahomes said End Overdose has also given training in colleges and high schools to educate young people about overdose risks and how to combat overdose-related deaths.
He hopes that by providing this information as well as fentanyl testing strips on Sproul Plaza, the organization can end overdose deaths. He is also advocating for Narcan to be available in residence halls and for RAs to be trained in its use.
“The real problem is that, according to data from the CDC, fentanyl-related overdoses are the number one cause of death for people aged 18-45”, Mahomes said. “Experimental drug use and addiction puts young people in a disproportionate at-risk population for overdoses, and fentanyl is lethal in very small amounts.”
Berkeley Unified School District, or BUSD, has also expressed concern over opioid-based overdoses specifically at Berkeley High School, according to a public statement sent by Superintendent Inikia Ford Mortel Sept. 2022 to the district community. The statement warned parents, students and staff about the dangers of fentanyl.
According to district spokesperson Trish McDermott, Berkeley High School has Naloxone and staff members trained to administer it at their Health Center.
Collegiate Recovery Program coordinator and HREP co-director Becca Gardner said in an email that college students are likely to use drugs recreationally and experiment with new substances.
Paula Marquez, third-year and HREP staff coordinator, said in an email that drug overdoses in the Bay Area have increased overall due to fentanyl contamination.
“It’s essential for all students and members of our campus community to have access to readily available materials which can allow them to make informed and safer choices,” Gardner said. “The fentanyl epidemic is a national public health emergency that doesn’t stop at Sather Gate.”