‘I don’t know why they didn’t do this sooner’: HRL and SGA work to put Narcan in residence halls next semester


Arthur H. Trickett-Wile

Senior Senator Olivia Feck speaks during Western Kentucky University Student Government Association’s second session of the spring semester on Tuesday evening, Jan. 24, 2023 in the SGA chambers on campus in Bowling Green.

Michael Crimmins, Administration reporter

Western Kentucky University’s Student Government Association recently passed a resolution supporting the implementation of Narcan, a spray designed to reverse the effects of opioid overdoses.

The resolution, entitled “2-23-S a Resolution to support Narcan in WKU Residence Hall,” was passed unanimously during the SGA meeting on Feb. 7, according to Yulia “Julie” Mishchuk, SGA speaker of the senate.

Originally, the SGA was going to pay roughly $1000 from their budget to purchase the Narcan, but through Charity Crowe, a harm reduction specialist at the University of Kentucky, they were able to buy the product through a grant.

“She was like ‘yeah, we can get you a government grant and we can do it on the government’s money,” Mishchuk said. “We were going to spend around $1000 to buy all the Narcan, and we were going to do the off brand […] but we found her and she was able to get us a grant and get it figured out.”

Now that SGA does not have to spend money, Mishchuk said, they passed the resolution as a show of support.

Mishchuk, Matt Gadd, a senior senator, and Reed Hensley, a WKU student, are listed as the authors of the resolution, and five out of seven committees from Student Mental Health and Wellbeing Committee to Enrollment and Student Experience Committee support the resolution. 

According to the resolution, there were 49.2 overdose deaths per 100,000 people as of 2020, but Lana Kunkel, director of housing operations, said no overdose incidents have occurred in a WKU residence hall. Mishchuk agrees that this measure is preemptive. 

“I don’t think we’ve seen it on campus, but the keyword is yet,” Mishchuk said. 

Currently, Kunkel said, UK, University of Louisville and Centre College all have Narcan around campus. 

“It’s so good for our university to say we have these safety measures in place,” Mishchuk said. “It’s great for enrollment and everything like they’re going to want to keep it around.”

“I don’t know why they didn’t do this sooner,” Mishchuk added.

Originally, it was planned to be implemented this semester but Housing & Residence Life, who will be doing most of the implementation, asked to delay till August 1 for “educational, training and familiarity” purposes.

“Housing and Residence life [has] an educational mission,” Kunkel said. “So, not only do we want it to be there if needed, [but] we also want to make sure there’s an educational opportunity to hopefully reduce drug use.”

The August 1 deadline also gives HRL the chance to give a “heads-up” to their professional and student staff members, Kunkel said. According to her, there is no expectation for Resident Assistants to use the Narcan, though they certainly are not prohibited to administer “life saving treatment.”

“We want to ensure time when this is announced to make sure our staff as a whole has a little bit of training that it is there but that there is no expectation or liability to use the Narcan from a staff employed scenario,” Kunkel said. “They can choose to do so but there is no requirement because some people just don’t want to take on that type of [responsibility].”

Kunkel said that not only will there be educational instruction during Master Plan for new students, it will also be discussed as part of the dorm’s first floor meeting.

David Oliver and Environmental Health and Safety will be building, installing and “ensuring that the Narcan is inspected and monitored,” according to Kunkel. The Narcan will either go into existing Automated external defibrillator boxes or will be housed in similarly designed boxes in the 15 dorms HRL oversees.

“EHS are going to assist us in either reusing the AED boxes or installing new boxes,” Kunkel said. “So the Narcan has a location that is public.”

While specific locations are still to be determined, Kunkel said, there will likely be Narcan “anywhere there is an AED box,” though she is still unsure if it will be in other places around campus like the Commons or Gatton Academy.

Kunkel said that while the main rollout to dorms is being pushed back, there are some “off-campus” buildings that already have Narcan like fraternity houses.

It is crucial to alert emergency services after Narcan has been used, Kunkel said, that is why the boxes will have an alarm that is “just enough of an annoyance” to get students to see Narcan has been used and call EMS.

“We want the boxes to have some sort of localized alert that does sound that way somebody hopefully will call 911,” Kunkel said. “The Narcan doesn’t do any good unless 911 and EMS respond, it only buys time, it does not permanently save a life.”

Kunkel and Mishchuk said this idea has received positive reactions from the WKU administration.

“WKU leadership is pleased with the good work and leadership demonstrated by our Student Government Association,” Jace Lux, WKU spokesperson, said in an email. “Recent proposed and passed legislation clearly illustrates the desire of our student leaders to support their peers by enhancing the overall WKU experience.”

Mishchuk said WKU police officers are all already equipped with Narcan, but having it in dorms will save valuable minutes needed for WKUPD to arrive.

“WKUPD already carries Narcan but their response time is a few minutes, and overdoses happen pretty fast so it’s just an extra measure to have them in residence halls,” Mishchuk said. “It’s so easy to use Narcan that there’s no reason for law enforcement to be the only ones who have them.” 

Mishchuk said this idea, which originally begun as an idea to put drug testing kits in dorms, came from a desire to make WKU’s campus safer and more comfortable for students. It also has a personal connection to her as her relative died due to a drug overdose.

“My brother-in-law passed away from an overdose a couple years ago,” Mishchuk said. “He actually had Narcan in his hand and he didn’t have enough time to use it. So it was really personal to me to be a part of this [resolution]…I feel like I’m kind of doing this in his memory.”

Kunkel said sorting out the logistics and establishing a process for the Narcan distribution is still in the early stages, but anticipates it to be ready by next semester.

Administration reporter Michael Crimmins can be reached at [email protected].