The prevalence of nonmedical opioid use among the college-age population is between seven and 12 percent, according to the American College Health Association Task Force for Opioid Prescribing.
As part of its effort to combat opioid addiction on campus, Binghamton University’s Health Promotion and Prevention Services office held a screening of “The Hungry Heart,” a documentary that follows young adults in the northeastern United States struggling with opioid addiction.
The film, directed and produced by Bess O’Brien, was shown on Thursday evening in Appalachian Collegiate Center. Following the screening, O’Brien spoke on a panel with University administrators and staff to discuss prevention and on-campus treatment.
Alongside O’Brien, panelists included Erin Monroe, college prevention coordinator for BU’s Health Promotion and Prevention Services; Beth Riley, the assistant dean and director of case management services in the Office of the Dean of Students; Stephen Baumgarten, chief and executive director of the Harpur’s Ferry Board of Directors and a second-year graduate student studying public administration; and Officer Brian VanDervort of Binghamton University’s New York State University Police.
In 2017, there were 66 drug overdoses in Broome County. Roughly 94 percent were opioid-related, according to data released by the office of Broome County District Attorney Stephen Cornwell in January. According to VanDervort, opiate addiction on campus is less prevalent.
“It does exist on campus, but we don’t see it on a regular basis,” said VanDervort. “I would say we don’t see it as much as the Binghamton Police Department.”
In 2014, Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed legislation that ordered all SUNY students to be educated on the signs of opiate addiction and to improve treatment options. The legislation improved measures to support addiction treatment, introduced new penalties to deter illegal drug distribution, improved accessibility to Naloxone anti-overdose kits and increased public education to prevent drug abuse. It was signed into law in 2016.
UPD operates under the 911 Good Samaritan Law, which allows underage people to call an ambulance for someone who needs medical attention without repercussions. Baumgarten said the ambulance company follows strict rules of confidentiality.
“Once you get emergency care we can’t share any of your medical information with anyone but doctors,” Baumgarten said.
Unlike many on-campus resources, administrative offices, like that of the Dean of Students, work to refer students and their private information to external resources. The Dean of Students Office provides case management coordinators who help students withdraw from school to get treatment, refer them to where they can seek more medical attention and communicate their problems to their peers and parents.
“We are not a confidential resource like Harpur’s Ferry is or the [University] Counseling Center,” Riley said. “We help students sort out what was the problem that drove out the use for that weekend or stretch of time.”
The Office of Alcohol and Other Drugs aims to integrate intervention throughout students’ time at the University, including through eCHECKUP, an electronic feedback form that is sent to all matriculated students at the beginning of their first year and is considered a form of brief intervention.
“All it really is is an opportunity for you to learn more about your behaviors,” Monroe said. “We do harm reduction, we talk about how to do what you’re going to do in a safe way.”
Angelica Collins, a senior majoring in political science, said she believed the documentary closely related to the lives of those facing opioid addiction in Broome County.
“It really showed what happens in Broome County because you know a lot about addiction that happens here,” Collins said. “It could’ve been Broome County.”