Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Narcan available on campus thanks to student advocacy

October 19, 2022
Psychology senior Jennie Boulus poses for a photo near Wells Hall on Oct. 18, 2022. Boulus has advocated that students should have access to narcan at the MSU pharmacy.
Psychology senior Jennie Boulus poses for a photo near Wells Hall on Oct. 18, 2022. Boulus has advocated that students should have access to narcan at the MSU pharmacy. —
Photo by Annie Barker | The State News

Naloxone, which is more commonly referred to as Narcan, is now available in the MSU Pharmacy. 

The push toward widespread Narcan accessibility on campus came from psychology senior Jennie Boulus, who was first inspired by others’ advocacy when she attended the on-campus TED Talks last April. 

“This project really started when I was at the TED Talk in the spring,” Boulus said. “I just really appreciated the value of what it means to contribute and take a stance and have a voice and advocate for what you believe in.”

The decision on what to advocate for was easy. Boulus had already been trained in administering Naloxone and she was interested in sharing her training with a broader audience. 

Boulus also felt the need to increase the visibility and accessibility of Narcan on campus, as the drug is a life-saving form of medical intervention in response to an opioid overdose. She decided to work toward reducing barriers to obtaining Narcan and educating her peers on how and when to use it. 

“My goal is to just promote the safety and well-being of the community,” Boulus said. “While the data show that there's only a fraction of a percentage of college students that use opioids from a representative national survey, I just believe that this life-saving medical tool could potentially reduce harm and improve the safety and well-being of the community.”

Boulus started by researching what other institutions have done nationwide to administer Naloxone in a safe and effective manner. She learned other universities have Narcan boxes in locations such as dorms, parking lots and student unions.

She also learned that there are various modalities for distribution including mobile delivery, Naloxone boxes located near AED boxes, and kits for trained students which include gloves, instructions and standard operating procedures. She also worked with local nonprofit coalitions and organizations across the nation to research the scope and implementation. 

Resources to provide Naloxone exist within the pharmacies in the East Lansing area and requests for Naloxone were provided for free. However, after meeting with Health Promotion Department members Dawn Kepler and Cara Ludlow to develop strategies, Boulus found that the MSU Health Care Pharmacy did not have a standing order for Naloxone. 

That’s when Boulus decided to take action and bring it to the attention of Michigan State University President Samuel L. Stanley Jr.

Upon meeting with Stanley, Boulus’ ideas were distributed to Senior Vice President for Student Life & Engagement Vennie Gore and the student life and engagement group. Boulus said Stanley and the MSU administration were highly supportive of her goals and she was excited to see her initiative come to fruition. 

So, in late August, the MSU Health Care Pharmacy began to provide a free-standing order for Narcan. This means healthcare teams, including nurses or medical assistants, are authorized to dispense Naloxone without having to obtain a physician's order. 

Despite her success, Boulus is not done advocating for Narcan availability on campus. She hopes to also make it available in dorms or other common areas, as well as provide students with resources to be trained to facilitate the drug in case of an emergency.

“The most challenging part (was) probably connecting all the pieces to address the gaps and really nailing down what would have to occur for this process (to happen),” Boulus said.

Boulus said she thought the process was made easier by the fact that she is a representative for the Alliance of Queer and Ally Students, or The Alliance, so she had connections to other peer groups. Additionally, she said the support she received throughout her mission was crucial to its success. 

“I believe that paying it forward in some kind of way to inspire other people to reduce barriers to institutional change is something that I'm really interested in, and watching different projects unfold and come into fruition as an MSU senior would be really enlightening,” Boulus said. “I just love the idea of stewardship and institutional change.”

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