How community colleges are fighting the opioid epidemic on campus

Approximately 33,000 people in the United States died of opioid overdoses in 2015 alone, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And now the crisis is spreading to college campuses.

Writing for Community College Daily, Ellie Ashford rounds up a few examples of how community college leaders are fighting the problem on their campuses.

Learn more: The opioid epidemic spreads to college campuses

Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College (A-B Tech) in North Carolina has partnered with Red Oak Recovery, a local rehab facility, in order to improve education on the opioid issue for faculty and staff. Participants learn about warning signs of drug misuse, the resources available on campus for students, and the physiology of addiction. In addition, A-B Tech puts on a three-hour seminar for students each spring that provides expert advice on dealing with addition.

A-B Tech law enforcement officers will also begin providing students with naloxone, which is meant to revive the body after an opioid overdose. But leaders at the college are wary of promoting its availability, which they worry could lull students into a false sense of security about overdosing, Ashford writes.

Community College of Beaver County (CCBC) in Pennsylvania is training its law enforcement team and students in health care programs to spot signs of an overdose and help individuals in opioid emergencies. While CCBC reports that they've not yet experienced an overdose on campus, they want to be prepared in the event that one does occur, Ashford writes.

Harford Community College in Maryland has started providing information about the risks of opioid overdose during new student orientation, according to Nancy Dysard, the college's director of marketing and public relations. Students also learn what to do in response to a peer overdose. In addition, the college will provide trainings for students in nursing, public safety, and psychology programs about how to use naloxone.

Also see: How to change alcohol culture on college campuses

Greenfield Community College (GCC) in Massachusetts provides group meetings for students recovering from a substance use disorder and helps them graduate from college.

GCC also recently started a 29-credit certificate program in drug addiction studies. Students who obtain the certificate can get licensed to work as a counselor in a rehabilitation facility or in a family drug court, according to Amy Ford, coordinator of the certificate program.  

Lorain County Community College (LCCC) in Ohio is situated in a county designed as a high-intensity drug trafficking area, by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Ashford reports. In response, the college offered a vacant building for local enforcement teams to use advanced forensics to tackle the problem, she writes.

LCCC also created a center on campus known as Caring Advocates for Recovery Education, which provides drug counseling to students, their families, and the local community. During the first year after the center was opened in 2015, it had 73 student clients. But last year, that number had gone up to 307 student clients, according to Marcia Ballinger, president of the college (Ashford, Community College Daily, 8/25).

Related: How to educate students about alcohol policy and policy violations

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