On January 8, Governor Tom Wolf announced that the Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs is awarding nearly $1 million in federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration grants, including $100,000 to Indiana University of Pennsylvania, to prevent and reduce the use of opioids by college students and to create naloxone training opportunities for post-secondary institutions.

The grants are part of the $55.9-million SAMSHA grant secured by the Wolf Administration to bolster the state's response to the prescription opioid and heroin epidemic.

“We consistently attack the state's opioid crisis from all angles, and this grant will enable additional focus on an integral part of our work—prevention,” Governor Wolf said. “Educating college students on the risk of opioid use and training institutions of higher learning on how to administer naloxone are two ways we can save lives and lessen the impact of this crisis.”

“We have learned from the opioid crisis that substance use disorder does not discriminate, and one of our hardest hit demographics are traditionally college-aged Pennsylvanians age 18-30,” said DDAP Secretary Jen Smith. “The commonwealth's unprecedented amount of federal funding has allowed us to take a comprehensive look at our prevention programs for secondary and post-secondary institutions and identify gaps in our system. This is the first of many steps the administration will be taking in strengthening prevention and awareness for adolescents in Pennsylvania.”

Erick Lauber, director of community health and leadership with IUP's Mid-Atlantic Research and Training Institute for Community and Behavioral Health, authored IUP's grant proposal. Ann Sesti, director of IUP's Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drugs program, is the grant co-author.

IUP's funding will be split between prevention and outreach efforts. IUP's MARTI will focus on prevention through an awareness campaign for students, faculty, and staff; Sesti's office will use the funding for workshops, Narcan training, and coordinating a family recovery specialist to meet with students on campus who have been impacted by opioid addiction. Narcan is a medication that reverses opioid overdoses.

Work is planned to begin during the spring semester.

The funding will be directed to 13 higher education institutions through grant agreements up to $100,000. Awardees will expand existing preventive programs and partner with key local stakeholders to develop and implement new projects. Projects may include raising campus awareness, reducing stigma, increasing access to overdose reversal trainings, and grief support.

During Governor Tom Wolf's second term, DDAP will place a heavy focus on reducing stigma associated with substance use disorder, intensifying primary prevention efforts, strengthening treatment systems, and empowering sustained recovery. The aim of these efforts will be to positively influence the knowledge and behavior around the topic of addiction.