UWM campuses install Narcan boxes, hope to help with Fentanyl-related overdoses
MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee announced Monday, Aug. 22, the installment of Nalox-ZONE boxes on the Milwaukee, Waukesha and Washington County campuses.
"While we do not condone the abuse of alcohol or the use of drugs, UWM Police Department, as well as the university, is committed to the safety of students," said UWM Chief of Police David Salazar. "Narcan is not a silver bullet. It's not going to save everyone. It's an opportunity to save people. What's most important is our students, our faculty; everybody gets behind the education. It takes less than two milligrams of Fentanyl to kill someone."
Twenty one of the boxes have been placed in high traffic areas throughout the campuses at UW-Milwaukee and its branches in Waukesha and Washington counties. Each box contains two doses of Narcan, instructions, a CPR mask and other resources.
Opioid overdoses have been impacting communities throughout the nation. Just last week, Wisconsin's Department of Health Services cautioned college students heading back to campus about the dangers of Fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opioid responsible for an increase in overdose deaths.
"A very, very tiny amount even as little as two grains of salt is enough to kill and cause fentanyl poisoning," explained Dr. Jasmine Zapata, Chief Medical Officer for the DHS Bureau of Community Health Promotion. "These are individuals that might just be taking one pill, don't even know fentanyl's in it and dying."
Wisconsin has seen a 97% increase in fentanyl overdose deaths between 2019 and 2021. In Milwaukee County, the medical examiner's office says the number of deaths involving fentanyl has increased more than 170% over the last five years.
In 2021, two students at UW-Milwaukee, Cade Reddington and Logan Rachwal, lost their lives due to fentanyl-related overdoses.
"I feel like this should be a comma, and we need to go forward as a community and as a school, and hopefully we can make this a statewide thing in all colleges and all campuses," said Erin Rachwal, Logan's mother, who along with the Reddington family has pushed for the boxes to be implemented at UW-Milwaukee. "If it would have been accessible and if the kids would have been able to recognize the amnesty laws, they may have been able to save my son."
Rachwal says she is very grateful to the university for working with her to make sure other families don't experience a similar fate.
"It's sad it cost my son his life. I never, ever condone any drug use, but these kids are all experimenting. They're dealing with depression, they're dealing with anxiety and I'm just so grateful. The last thing we ever want is for another child to be lost, or any family going through anything like this," Rachwal said. "These Narcan boxes could definitely save a life."
UW-Oshkosh was the first campus in the UW-System to implement the boxes. CBS 58 reached out to several universities in the area to see what, if any, Narcan distribution and overdose education programs are in place.
Wisconsin Lutheran College in Milwaukee says this fall, the college will have Narcan spray available onsite. The college is working in partnership with the Wauwatosa Health Department on the overdose issues being experienced in the community.
At Concordia University Wisconsin, while boxes are not installed, all campus safety and first responder staff as well as the health care center staff have access to Narcan and are trained how to use it.
Carthage College says it works with the Kenosha County Health Department to provide training opportunities for staff members in the administration of Narcan, which can be found in AED machines across campus and can be easily accessed if needed. Carthage is currently exploring the placement of Nalox-ZONE boxes around campus.
The Rachwal family has founded a nonprofit which aims to save lives through increased support and education in the community. More information can be found at the non-profits website HERE.