DALLAS TOWNSHIP, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — Some troubling data is out concerning the number of Luzerne County overdose deaths. The number grew in 2017 to 155 up from 140 the previous year. Opioid abuse is to blame but now a local college is stepping up to try and save lives. Eyewitness News Reporter Mark Hiller explains how.
The lesson Wednesday afternoon at Misericordia University about opioid abuse wasn’t being taught to students. The audience consisted of members of Misericordia’s Residence Life and Campus Safety departments. Wyoming Valley Alcohol And Drug Services, Inc. Prevention Specialist Janine Olshefski presented the program about a complex problem with a simple goal. “They will have a better understanding of what to look for. The signs, the symptoms, how to help people.”
Help is a major component of the training session. Misericordia University is based in Luzerne County which is struggling mightily with opioid abuse. The county averaged 43.6 opioid overdose deaths per 100,000 people in 2017. That’s more than the state average of 36.5 per 100,000 and nearly triple the national average of 16.3 per 100,000. Misericordia Campus Safety & Security Director Bob Zavada said, “Certainly it’s very concerning to us because we could potentially have that here on campus of course, just like any other college campus.”
Also part of the training was how to administer the opioid reversal drug Narcan. If you think it’s only Misericordia students and staff who may be helped, think again. This is an open campus. Mr. Zavada said, “We have veterans events that are affected by this, the elderly events that are affected by this and we want to provide the services we can for the whole population.”
Narcan treatment began showing up on the campus of Misericordia about a year ago. By getting it into the hands of more staffers, it could translate into saving some lives. “I think that is a huge responsibility to take on,” said Misericordia University Resident Director Ewelina Taran. Staffers like her will now be armed with Narcan hoping she’ll never have to use it, but now prepared in case she must. “I’m glad that it is something we are not overlooking but rather being proactive in our approach and not reactive,” said Ms. Taran.
About three dozen staff members at Misericordia University were also trained in alcohol abuse awareness besides opioid abuse recognition during the two hour program.