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University of Illinois at Chicago College of Pharmacy
Addressing the Crisis at Home
by Maxwell Stone, ICHP President-Elect Second-year Student Pharmacist University of Illinois at Chicago College of Pharmacy
According to the Winnebago County Coroner, there has been a 28% increase in drug overdoses.1 Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid analgesic, accounts for 64% of overdose deaths in the county. The opioid crisis has had a devastating impact across the Midwest; Rockford, Illinois is no exception. In fact, more than 80% of the drug overdoses in Winnebago County occur in Rockford. The University of Illinois at Chicago College of Pharmacy students are working on addressing this issue.
This past Spring, ICHP and APhA collaborated together to initiate an Opioid Awareness Event on campus. The purpose of the event was to educate students about opioids so they would be more prepared to address the crisis in community and clinical practice. Invited speaker and UIC alum, Dr. Mariana Ivanylo shared her experiences working as a clinical pharmacist in opioid utilization management as a pharmacy benefit manager for CVS/Caremark. Student pharmacists completed a presentation that focused on educating students on general opioid safety, naloxone administration, and comparative dosing of opioid medications. The event supported collaboration between student organizations, networking with alumni, and real-world application of student training. An expansion of outreach efforts was developed with the involvement of ICHP students and a new initiative, Operation Opioid.
In the Fall of 2018, several UIC second-year pharmacy students formed an outreach group to help combat the spread of the opioid crisis in their community. We believe that as future pharmacists, we are responsible to aid and educate our community when it comes to medication. Furthermore, as healthcare professionals, we should hold each other to a high standard for properly dispensing and counseling on all medications, especially opioids.
After overwhelmingly positive feedback from students and faculty, the small group project has grown, evolved, and gained elective status within the university. The program has been supported by the Vice Dean, Kevin Rynn, who has been an outspoken member of our community in addressing the opioid epidemic. Seven student pharmacists from the Class of 2022 were the first to join the newly formed elective course, now offered each spring semester. The collective was deemed Operation Opioid “Team O2” and set out to create community outreach events and raise awareness about opioid use and misuse.
The student chapter members of ICHP at the UIC College of Pharmacy have played an important role in the formation of this organization and its mission. Among the founding members of this organization are ICHP Chapter President, William Clafshenkel and APhA-ASP President, Catherine Ayala. Class of 2022 recruits for the elective also included myself, the ICHP Chapter President-Elect, and ICHP Mental Health Chair, Crystal Zupon.
Student pharmacists in the elective were split into two groups that conducted research, created educational posters and presentations, discussed the latest findings, and demonstrated the proper use of naloxone injectors. The semester’s work culminated in the groups giving four educational presentations at Belvedere High School and Jefferson High School in Rockford.
By splitting the students into two smaller groups, the presentations were smaller and more personal. The 45 minute presentations fit snugly into a class period for students, but the hope was that the impression would last a lifetime. Members of “Team O2” provide a special perspective to presentations as the opioid epidemic has had a profound impact on all of their lives. Members incorporate their experience presentations and the profession. The presentation covers what opioids are, how they are used, their addictive properties, community and nationwide statistics, how to detect an overdose, and how to use a naloxone injector.
The circumstances that made “Team O2” members unique in their experiences are unfortunately becoming more common. During each presentation many students have shared how their lives have been affected as well. This has supported our goal to provide outreach for high school students. High school students are among the most susceptible to the opioid epidemic, but early education can create some real change in these students' lives and communities. The Fall semester has only just begun, but it already feels like the spring semester is on its way. “Team O2” members are all eager to see how we can expand the program and involve the newest class in the elective.