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Taylor Sloan, PharmD Student
Purdue University College of Pharmacy

Andrew Wakefield, PharmD Student
Purdue University College of Pharmacy

Carol Ott, PharmD, BCPP
Clinical Professor of Pharmacy Practice
Purdue University College of Pharmacy

CPNP Purdue is actively working within the Purdue University campus, Tippecanoe County, and surrounding counties to advocate for programs and education that will help people dealing with substance abuse problems. Our efforts focus on increasing awareness of the services provided by the local needle exchange program as well as implementing a new service-based program that offers mobile education and naloxone training to combat the opioid epidemic within the community.

The Purdue University College of Pharmacy and CPNP Purdue have recognized that the opioid epidemic has impacted the campus and community in which they reside - West Lafayette and Lafayette, Indiana. The declared public health emergency related to Hepatitis C in Tippecanoe County (surrounding Purdue University) led to an October 2017 launch of a syringe services program called Gateway to Hope. Tippecanoe County has seen a 20% increase in Hepatitis C cases and a 75% increase in heroin and opioid overdoses over a five year span from 2011-2015.1 This public health emergency has led to the county being ranked as the 9th highest in Indiana for Hepatitis C transmission.1,2 Recognizing the impact the College of Pharmacy and CPNP Purdue may have within the campus and greater community, student members developed a plan to advocate for appropriate evidence-based resources and treatment of substance use disorders and to educate the community on principles of harm reduction.

CPNP Purdue and the College of Pharmacy have recently launched the BoilerworRx Project, an initiative that is aimed at responding to public health emergencies and crises within the community. The current objective of the BoilerworRx Project is to provide educational training and materials to the Purdue campus and beyond regarding treatment of substance use disorders, the resources provided by syringe services programs, and the role of naloxone in reversing opioid overdoses. The College of Pharmacy received a generous donation from pharmacy alumni for this project to provide education and support for those struggling with substance use disorders, the campus, and the community. CPNP Purdue student members are planning a mobile education unit that will be taken to various locations within the community, especially areas in which intravenous drug use is most prevalent. The College of Pharmacy hopes to expand the BoilerworRx Program statewide through the Purdue Extension programs, a university affiliated program that provides health education across the state through the College of Agriculture. Understanding that many of these actions are reactive to the community’s opioid dependence issue, both entities are hoping to take a more proactive role in reducing the amount of unused prescription opioids in the community by hosting drug take-back events with this mobile unit. Ultimately by educating community members on the use of naloxone and the benefits of syringe services programs, CPNP Purdue will be equipped to employ the services of the BoilerworRx Program to respond to future health emergencies.

CPNP Purdue student members have received naloxone training that will enable members to train other students and members of the community on the appropriate technique for administering naloxone doses. It is hoped that these training sessions will save lives by ensuring that individuals are able to recognize the signs of an opioid overdose and respond accordingly. CPNP Purdue will design a flier that has pertinent information about naloxone as well as the phone numbers of medical professionals for those who are seeking support or treatment for their substance use disorders. Additionally, magnetized signage for the university vehicles that will serve as the mobile education unit will also be designed. A tote bag collection drive will ensure supplies that the participants receive are inclusive and readily available. Since syringe services programs are intended to be anonymous; this tote bag drive will provide a non-identifiable means for participants to store supplies. In addition to these initiatives, student chapter members will continue volunteering at the syringe services program site and help get the program’s mobile syringe exchange unit off the ground.

In addition to providing education and access to resources, CPNP Purdue members have engaged in a contentious community debate over the efficacy and appropriateness of syringe services programs. The local syringe services program, Gateway to Hope, was pending renewed approval during the first week of December 2017. CPNP Purdue and Purdue Academy of Student Pharmacists (ASP) students attended the Tippecanoe County Council meeting and advocated in favor of the program, citing the well-established body of evidence that supports the efficacy and safety implications of such programs. Pharmacy students presented research and primary literature that challenged some of the common misconceptions, such as an increase in drug use and crime that were held by a number of community members. CPNP Purdue played a critical part in the support for extending the duration of the syringe services program that resulted in a 2-1 vote in favor of extending the program for another year. A few weeks before this success, the Purdue Student Government proposed a resolution to preemptively prevent the implementation of a syringe services program on campus. This bill was passed in a 15-13 vote in favor of denying such a program on campus; however, CPNP Purdue and ASP student members were able to provide an evidence-based education on harm reduction programs to the student senators.

As CPNP Purdue continues to help build the BoilerworRx project and partner with the county health department to support the Gateway to Hope program, we hope that our efforts make a positive impact in the community. Our goal to provide education that can save lives is at the center of all our initiatives and community involvement. 

References

  1. Tippecanoe County Health Department. The Tippecanoe County Health Department 2016 Annual Report. Available at: https://www.tippecanoe.in.gov/DocumentCenter/View/13085.
  2. Tippecanoe County Health Department. Community Health Needs Assessment: Key to a Healthy and Vibrant Community. Available at: https://www.tippecanoe.in.gov/DocumentCenter/View/10015.
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25 Years!