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Ohio University Southern Conducts Fentanyl Release Simulation

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Funded by a grant from the Ohio Department of Higher Education, Ohio U’s Ironton campus held a fentanyl release simulation to train its students.

About 90 people from Ohio University Southern’s Ironton campus participated in a fentanyl release simulation on Oct. 31 as part of the university’s effort to train students to respond to fentanyl overdoses.

The drill involved students from the Ironton campus and Collins Career Technical Center  dressing in hazmat suits, practicing the transportation of volunteers as if they were victims of a fentanyl overdose, and decontamination of the incident response team.

Fentanyl, and especially carfentanil, are dangerous enough that people handling them can overdose just by touching it in its pure form, so practicing decontamination of the incident response team is necessary. This simulation aimed to help students learn how to handle the opioid crisis affecting southern Ohio.

Lawrence County — home of Ironton and Ohio University Southern’s Ironton campus — has been devastated by the opioid epidemic.  

According to the Ironton Tribune, 90 percent of court cases in Lawrence County are drug-related. In fact, Lawrence County recently set up a drug court with the exclusive goal of rehabilitation.

“Lawrence County, Ohio has experienced significant increases in drug overdoses and overdose deaths over the last few years,” Dean of Ohio University Southern Nicole Pennington said in an email.

The opioid epidemic started about 20 years ago, according to Craig Ramsay, a retired paramedic supervisor and current professor at Ohio University Lancaster and The Ohio State University.

“There was also a movement in the United States in health care … to treat pain and pretty much give folks what they want,” Ramsay said.

According to Ramsay, the problem started with doctors prescribing the pain reliever fentanyl, which is 80 to 120 times more potent than morphine.

Fentanyl and similar opioids are respiratory system depressants, which slow down blood flow and breathing. When someone overdoses on an opioid, they can die because the drug causes them to stop breathing entirely.

A drill like the one performed at Ohio University Southern campus involves the administration of Narcan, a drug that reverses the effects of an opioid overdose. However, Narcan is only a temporary solution and cannot save someone’s life alone, Ramsay said.

“While it’s a great idea to get Narcan out to the public, … people get their hands on this and they think ‘Aw, no problem. If I just take too much, no big deal, somebody will give me Narcan and I’ll be fine.’ That’s not the case,” Ramsay said. “All it does is stop things for maybe a half-hour or so.”

A grant from the Ohio Department of Higher Education under its Regionally Aligned Priorities in Delivering Skills initiative is funding Ohio University Southern’s fentanyl response program.

The event was supervised by Nicole Pennington, the superintendent of the Collins Career Technical Center; and John Carey, the chancellor the Ohio Department of Higher Education.

“While these drills are not the answer to the opioid crisis, they do help those providers to be better prepared in responding to potentially life-threatening situations,” Pennington said in an email.

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