Earlier this year, a grant from the Blue & You Foundation for a Healthier Arkansas enabled the University of Arkansas System’s Criminal Justice Institute (CJI) to expand its efforts in combating opioid drug overdose. The grant allowed the CJI to provide 1,390 naloxone kits to first responders, a group which now includes officers in the University of Arkansas at Monticello police department.

Naloxone is a nasal spray that can reverse an opioid drug overdose if administered in time and followed up appropriately, potentially preventing overdose deaths. According to a press release by CJI, hundreds of lives have been saved in Arkansas with the administration of this nasal spray. A commonly recognized brand name of naloxone is Narcan®.

UAMPD Chief John Kidwell contacted CJI to become part of the program, which required the department to adopt policies and procedures in line with best practices. As of July, every campus officer had completed a specific naloxone training through CJI demonstrating its proper use. Kidwell says that he’s made it a priority to expand officer training in areas beyond law enforcement, and naloxone training is one of these opportunities.

All officers on duty carry naloxone, which is helpful, Kidwell explains, because of the nature of how quickly an opioid overdose could occur. “We don’t run into overdose often, but it happens,” he said. “A big concern is accidental exposure to fentanyl. One of our officers could come into contact with fentanyl during an investigation or while assisting an off-campus agency. Just touching residue on the outside of a package containing fentanyl could lead to an overdose for an officer,” Kidwell said. “I want the naloxone for helping an officer in trouble as well as for a drug user.”

In an effort to encourage immediate calls for emergency assistance, the Joshua Ashley-Pauley Act in Arkansas was passed in 2015. It prevents an arrest for possession if a bystander calls for help in the case of witnessing an overdose.

Opioid abuse has received heightened national and regional attention as a major health crisis in the last several years. More recently, statewide efforts to spread awareness about abuse of opioids on college campuses resulted in 19 universities hosting student-led events in March of this year. The “Save AR Students,” awareness events at UAM this spring included a seminar, expert roundtable and a wellness fair. For additional information, contact UAM public relations at 870-460-1274.