Columbia Officials Present at White House Discussion on Opioid Overdose and Response in Higher Education

November 21, 2019

In a White House-sponsored roundtable, officials shared key learnings from implementation of Columbia’s naloxone training program, an initiative of Columbia Health, Columbia Mailman School of Public Health, and the Columbia School of General Studies.

In response to the rising concern around opioid usage and potential for overdose on college campuses, the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) hosted the Addressing Overdose and Response at Colleges and Universities roundtable on November 13, 2019 at the White House Eisenhower Executive Office Building to discuss how campuses are combating the opioid epidemic. 

As one of the few institutions in the nation to have designed and implemented a comprehensive naloxone training program geared towards the entire campus community—students, faculty, and staff—Columbia was invited to speak about its experience on multiple panels for invited participants including college and university officials, harm-reduction advocates, national higher education associations, and other federal officials.

The University’s naloxone training program is part of a multi-disciplinary initiative between Columbia Health, Columbia Mailman School of Public Health, and the Columbia School of General Studies. This evidence-based effort is informed by a research grant led by Rachel Shelton, ScD, MPH, Assistant Professor of Sociomedical Sciences at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health and Lisa Rosen-Metsch, Dean of Columbia School of General Studies, and funded by Columbia’s Irving Institute for Clinical and Translational Research. Since August 2019, the program has trained 661 members of the Columbia community to recognize signs of opioid overdose and administer lifesaving medication. Furthermore, the naloxone training program aligns with objective 11 in the Columbia-JED Strategic Plan to ensure substance use policies and protocols best support students. 

Columbia's approach to engaging special populations

A key component of Columbia’s plan was to identify and engage with key student sub-populations who were in close proximity to students who may be more likely to use opioids misuse or are highly connected and influential leaders on campus. Dr. Rachel Shelton,  Director of the Irving Institute Implementation Science Initiative, discussed research findings based on Columbia’s experience, with representatives from the Zeta Tau Alpha National Fraternal Organization and Association of Recovery in Higher Education in the Working with Special populations on Campus panel, moderated by ONDCP Deputy Director, Kendel Ehrlich. Dr. Shelton presented recommendations for overcoming barriers to participation and facilitating engagement in training among special populations including Veterans, athletes, Resident Advisors, fraternity and sorority members, and students in recovery based on focus group research.

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