All incoming full-time students at Harford Community College, under a new policy approved Tuesday, will be required to attend heroin addiction and awareness training
The college will also have doses of Narcan on hand and its special police officers will know how to administer it, according to college officials.
"I thank God every day we have not had to respond in this way," HCC President Dianna Phillips told the trustees during a meeting in Edgewood Hall Tuesday evening.
In response to the growing heroin and opioid epidemic across the state, the Maryland General Assembly passed bills in the House and the Senate during the 2017 session requiring community colleges to create a policy to address heroin and opioid addiction and prevention. Trustees approved the policy at Tuesday's meeting.
According to the policy that goes into effect July 1, incoming full-time students will be required to participate in online or in-person heroin and opioid addiction and awareness training. The same information will be available for part-time students, but it will not be required. They will be provided with resources to alert and educate them on addiction and prevention.
"All new full-time students will get training on the dangers of addiction," Phillips said. "We'd like to make it mandatory for everyone."
As of Monday, there have been 195 heroin-related overdoses in Harford this year, and 41 of them have been fatal, according to the Harford County Sheriff's Office.
The policy also says HCC is drug free, "in order to ensure a healthy and safe learning environment. The college is committed to promoting personal wellness and responsibility and recognizes that drug addiction is an illness."
In addition to the training, HCC will maintain a supply of Narcan, the overdose reversing medication used in emergencies. In addition to being trained to administer the medication, HCC special police officers will be trained to recognize symptoms of an opioid overdose and to properly follow up on emergency procedures related to an opioid overdose.
Trustee John Haggerty asked about the dangers to the HCC officers, with the emergence of fentanyl and, most recently, carfentanil, in the heroin being used in Harford.
Carfentanil, according to the Drug Enforcement Agency in an alert issued in September 2016, is 100 times more potent than fentanyl, another synthetic opioid.
Just traces of carfentanil, an elephant tranquilizer, can be deadly to those exposed to it.
Haggerty said he wants to ensure the campus officers who might respond to an overdose are protected.
"We're in the thick of it. We're as well-prepared as any other other public safety officers in Harford County," Phillips said. ""We'll progress with it as the situation requires."
After a deputy and two EMS workers suffered overdose-type symptoms responding to an overdose call, the Sheriff's Office began issuing full-body protective gear, including a hooded suit, boots, gloves, a mask and eyewear, which shift supervisors can provide to deputies who want to give themselves extra protection when handling an overdose.