Bridgewater State University will offer public access to Narcan in locations across campus to combat potential overdoses, the university said.
The university’s police department is launching an “aggressive” opioid overdose prevention program, making the overdose-reversing drug available in 50 defibrillator boxes across campus buildings, including all 11 residence halls, university officials said.
They said it was the first program of its kind by a university in the nation.
“This is new to universities,” Dr. Daniel Muse, an emergency medical specialist at Signature Healthcare Brockton Hospital, said in the university statement. “There’s a drug you can give that reverses overdoses and gets victims breathing.”
The university’s program is a response to changing factors in the national opioid epidemic, including the shift in average age of overdose victims from the 30- to 39-year-old demographic to 20- to 29-year-olds — a bracket that includes college-age students.
The university also pointed to a recent increase in overdose cases involving victims who had unknowingly ingested marijuana laced with fentanyl as dealers use the deadly opioid to “spike it up,” the school said.
“The university is responding to a crisis in its own backyard — Plymouth County, an epicenter of opioid abuse in the Commonwealth,’’ the university said.
In addition to offering access to Narcan across campus, the university’s opioid overdose prevention program includes seminars on substance abuse education and training in the use of Narcan and defibrillators, as well as CPR.
Bridgewater State University Police Detective Sergeant Robert McEvoy said that while Narcan works to reverse the effects of an overdose, “for the Narcan to work, you have to at a minimum use rescue breaths,” if not take full life support measures.
The first free on-campus event, which will be open to all, including town residents, will be held on Tuesday.
The university held an overdose treatment training session in June for emergency workers and athletic trainers. Residence hall staff members received training in mid-August.
“BSU is trying to be proactive in the prevention of opioid overdose,” McEvoy said in a telephone interview Tuesday. “Narcan can stop an overdose but it can’t cure addiction, and that’s why we’re really trying to focus on the education aspect.”
The public availability of Narcan has prompted some criticism elsewhere, including concerns that administrators may not have the proper training and that providing the drug gives addicts a “free ticket.”
But McEvoy said the response at Bridgewater State has so far been supportive. “We really haven’t gotten any negative feedback whatsoever,” McEvoy said.
He said that the program will likely lead to more universities adopting similar approaches.
“We’ve already had a number of universities reach out to us asking how we’re going to be instituting it,” McEvoy said.
The Narcan units at the school will be available on campus on Tuesday, the same day as the training seminar. McEvoy said the Narcan was donated to the university by the Police Assisted Addiction and Recovery Initiative, a Gloucester-based support group for police departments dealing with opioid-related issues.Jeremiah Manion of the Globe staff contributed to this report. Ben Thompson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.