Section: News

Narcan training goes on despite resistance from the College

On Tuesday, This Must be the Place, a nonprofit organization located in Columbus, hosted a training in Gambier instructing students on the use of Narcan, a drug that reverses opioid overdoses. The event, which was originally planned to be held on campus, moved to an off-campus location after student organizer Mikayla Connolly ’23 experienced pushback from Kenyon administrators. 

Narcan, a nasal spray version of naloxone, reverses the effects of overdoses from drugs like oxycodone, fentanyl and heroin. The nasal spray has no impact on a person who does not have opioids in their system. The drug was approved for over-the-counter distribution by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on March 29, meaning that it will soon be available without a prescription everywhere from drug stores to supermarkets. 

Connolly explained that they became aware of naloxone because they frequently attend music festivals where it is distributed. After hearing from friends and acquaintances on campus that they planned to try hard drugs at Summer Sendoff, Connolly thought that Kenyon’s largest music event could use this resource. She reached out to This Must Be the Place, a nonprofit in Columbus that specializes in providing Narcan at concerts and music festivals. The organization agreed to give training for students and provide doses of Narcan for students to carry at Sendoff. 

Connolly said that before moving forward, she reviewed the student handbook, as well as local laws, to ensure her plan was legal and complied with Kenyon’s policies. Additionally, they alerted College administrators to the plan before publicly communicating it to the student body in an all-student email on March 18, which solicited students interested in attending the training. Connolly said the interest from students was immediate — according to a follow-up email she sent two days later, around 30 people had already indicated their interest. 

On the following Monday, Connolly said, they joined a meeting with Dean of Students Brian Janssen and Director of Student Engagement Caleb Young to further discuss Connolly’s idea. It was at this meeting, she said, that she first heard of the administration’s serious concerns with the plan. Since then, they have had several meetings with Janssen, Young and Senior Director of Wellness Chris Smith, which she described as immensely frustrating. Connolly said that across these meetings administrators raised a variety of concerns. Though, despite being repeatedly asked by the Collegian to clarify these concerns, Janssen and Smith provided few specifics. Smith did say in an email to the Collegian that Narcan is already available at the Office of Campus Safety.

Connolly said her communications with administrators then pivoted to them suggesting an educational initiative, as opposed to putting Narcan in the hands of students, which she repeatedly expressed is different from her aim. She expressed frustration that College administrators would not confirm whether or not trained students will be permitted to carry doses of Narcan on their persons at Sendoff. “I specifically said ‘Narcan in the hands of students,’ and [Janssen] responded with ‘education and advocacy,’” she said. Janssen echoed this when asked by the Collegian if administrators would support students carrying Narcan. “The College is open to pursuing collaborative partnerships to provide education and resources as it relates to Narcan,” he wrote in a message to the Collegian. Neither Janssen, Smith nor Acting President Jeff Bowman would say whether students would be allowed to carry Narcan into Sendoff when asked by the Collegian

Janssen and Smith both expressed concerns about the timeline, including the fact that Connolly is a senior and will graduate soon, saying they needed more time to consider possible programs. “We needed to take some time to fully answer our questions and share a mutual understanding,” Smith wrote in an email to the Collegian

Because of the lack of support from the College’s administration, Connolly decided to move the training to an off-campus location in Gambier. The event, which happened on Tuesday, drew around 30 students and was “extremely successful,” according to Connolly. She said the high level of interest from students was particularly moving to her and to the professionals running the event.  “As more and more people walked in, the nonprofits’ co-founders just kept saying ‘wow’ — they were really surprised so many people came,” she wrote in a message to the Collegian. The students who attended were trained on how to administer Narcan and were given doses for themselves, as well as extras to distribute to friends who might not have been able to attend. According to Connolly, the nonprofit offered to send more doses to campus before Sendoff. Connolly sees administrative pushback to her project as connected to other phenomena on campus, including the elimination of the Sexual Respect Peer Alliance (SRPA) and the Peer Counselors. “It speaks to how desperately peer-to-peer supports on campus are needed. Students just want to help keep each other safe, there’s a real passion among students to be proactive and have the power to help,” they wrote in a message to the Collegian. “If [Smith] and the College’s administration [don’t] drop their broad opposition to peer-to-peer support on campus, students will suffer.”


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