Michelle Burger ’26 and Sarah Smith ’25 met this semester at a Feminist Student Union meeting and bonded over their shared passion for harm reduction. After noticing a lack of education and resources, the two decided to form the Harm Reduction Community Outreach Club. Their main goals include spreading awareness and education around drug safety, and making harm reduction resources such as Narcan and ketamine test strips more accessible for students.
The rate of unintentional opioid overdose deaths has been rapidly increasing in Portland and across Oregon in recent years, with 955 deaths in Oregon in 2022, a significant jump from the 280 deaths in 2019. This year has also seen an increase in the number of opioid overdose visits to emergency departments and urgent care centers.
“We saw that there just weren’t a lot of resources for students on campus because of our alcohol and drug policy,” Smith said. “It’s important that we have the drug and alcohol policy, but (also) to support students where they’re at, and that they are using substances … it’s important for them to have resources.”
The principles of harm reduction are recognizing that drug use is occurring despite its illegality and trying to mitigate the harm when people do decide to do drugs by providing life-saving training and resources like fentanyl test strips and Narcan.
In line with these principles, the club’s aim is to increase awareness about drug safety and give students the tools and confidence to react responsibly in an emergency.
“If you see someone overdosing, it’s sometimes a little scary and hard to know how to act. Giving people the training to feel like they know what to do in case that happens is something we feel is important, and also understanding medical amnesty policies and Good Samaritan laws,” Smith said.
Good Samaritan laws in Oregon guarantee that a person calling the police or 911 to report an overdose cannot face legal repercussions for drug possession or for being present while drugs are used.
Before this year, organizations were not technically allowed to distribute or use club budgets to purchase fentanyl test strips and Narcan on campus, because of their classification as drug paraphernalia. But over the summer, a new Oregon House bill passed which declassified drug test strips as drug paraphernalia, and ruled that it is now legal for any organization to distribute Narcan. This made the club’s mission easier to implement. The main project the club has been working on this semester is sourcing Narcan and distributing it to students who request it, as well as educating Lewis & Clark’s student body on how to administer Narcan if they witness an overdose.
Narcan is an opioid antagonist which can reverse an opioid overdose. It is commonly administered intramuscularly, but the club has been working to source intranasal Narcan, applied by spraying liquid from a small bottle into the nose, as it is easier and can be less intimidating for students to administer.
Unfortunately, intranasal Narcan is currently less common and therefore more expensive and harder to source. The club has been coordinating with local harm reduction and community outreach groups to ask for donations of Narcan. So far they have sourced over 50 boxes, each containing two doses priced for consumer sale at around $50 a box.
Fentanyl test strips are also an essential resource, because drugs laced with fentanyl can be deadly. Since there is no safe source of illegally bought drugs, they always have the potential to be laced with fentanyl, so it is vital to test these drugs before taking them.
“All over the country, but especially in Portland right now, there’s fentanyl everywhere and the drug supply is super unsafe,” Smith said.
The more people that use fentanyl test strips, the more overdoses can hopefully be prevented and Narcan won’t need to be used as often.
“Right now fentanyl test strips are pretty accessible to us, it’s just getting them to the student body,” Smith said.
The club is also talking with campus living about possibly making fentanyl test strips available to students in dorms and distributing them through Resident Advisors.
Students can reach out to the club via their Instagram or email to ask for Narcan and fentanyl test strips. Smith said that the club also has a budget which they will use to purchase additional Narcan if donation supplies run out, but they hope to continue collaborating with local organizations.
Additionally, the club hopes to organize CPR training in collaboration with Campus Safety to give students additional rescue skills and knowledge about what to do in an emergency.
“We’re also working with Campus Safety to talk about how we can work on the relationship between students and Campo in order to make sure students feel like they can call Campus Safety if something happens,” Smith added.
Smith emphasized that the club’s work does not promote or encourage drug use, despite this being a common misconception they run into.
“We really want to put out the message that we are not trying to encourage drug use, that we want people to just use safely,” Smith said. “What we really want to show people is that we care about the student body and we want people to be safe. But I think it starts with making those relationships and making sure people understand what our intents are.”
Anyone who wants to get involved in the club or come by for resources or advice can come to club meetings, currently on Wednesdays from 5-6 p.m. in Fowler 237, or board meetings on Mondays from 12:30–1:30 p.m. in the library. Next semester’s meeting times have not yet been solidified, but will be posted on Instagram @lc_harmreductioncoc. Students can also always reach out by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
“We started because Michelle and I are both really passionate about harm reduction and we saw that there just weren’t a lot of resources for students on campus because of our alcohol and drug policy. It’s important that we have the drug and alcohol policy, but to support students where they’re at and that they are using substances we felt like it’s important for them to have resources and so we didn’t really know what it as going to look like but our initial goals were to get Narcan on campus for students to use to potentially reverse and overdose.
“It’s like a miracle drug, it brings someone right out of it, depending of course on a number of things including how much they used.
“This was our main goal, of getting this accessible on campus, that’s something that’s going to take some time but we do have enough to be able to give it to students who request it from us.
Another thing that we really care about is getting fentanyl test strips. Those are really important so people can be aware of what they’re using. All over the country but especially in Portland right now, there’s fentanyl everywhere and the drug supply is super unsafe. So it’s really important to be testing to know what it is you’re taking, and then sometimes you have to test all of your drug for it to really tell you what’s in there, because sometimes just a small amount can be lethal, and so you still want to keep Narcan just in case, and so having those two resources together are really important for potentially avoiding overdoses.
We also want to do general drug education, like how do different drugs impact your system, what are the safest ways to use them.
Michelle put on a weed workshop through health promotion and wellness. The main goal right now is to get Narcan training on campus so people are aware of how to use it.
Narcan=opioid antagonist that can reverse an opioid overdose
If you see someone overdosing it’s sometimes a little scary and hard to know how to act, so giving people the training to feel like they know what to do in case that happenshappiness is something we feel like is important, and also understanding medical amnesty policies and good samaritan laws. Basically if you call in a drug overdose you won’t get in trouble for possession or for being in an environment where drugs are being used. Basically, you won’t get in trouble for calling about an overdose. Spreading that awareness is really important. WE’re also working with campus safety to talk about how we can work on the relationship between students and campo in order to make sure students feel like they can call campus safety if something happens. We’re also going to discuss having a CPR training done through campus safety so that they know how to react in emergency situations.
We really want to put out the message that we are not trying to encourage drug use, that we want people to just use safely, but I think whenever we talk about drug use, you come to this ‘oh, they’re promoting it or encouraging it’, and what we really want to show people is that we care about the student body and we want people to be safe. But I think it starts with making those relationships and making sure people understand what our intents are and really I want to emphasize
We believe that things like narcan and fentanyl test strips are things that should be on every college campus across the united states, even in high schools.
Previous to August, fentanyl test strips were considered drug paraphanelia
Offered donation of 3000 fentanyl test strips from organization that one of their members volunteers for.
“Those are going to be pretty accessible. Right now we’re hoping to get them placed on the residential side of campus so that students have the ability to take them as necessary.
Right now fentanyl test strips are pretty accessible to us, it’s just getting them to the student body, so we’re working with campus living to potentially try to get fentanyl test strips to RAs.
In terms of narcan, have spoken to reed and psu. “Right now, everyone in the area is struggling to get narcan.” We have plenty of intramuscular, it’s just that a lot of people are intimidated by injecting someone with a needle. IT’s already a scary situation, giving someone a needle that they’re probably hesitant to use might make them less likely to offer help, so we really want to promote the intranasal narcan, but it’s just way more expensive.
ABout $50 for a box with 2 dose
Got a donation from portland street medics of about 30 boxes. Project red 24 boxes
“I would love to give everyone on campus narcan, because even if you’re just walking around Portland, we all have the potential to come across someone who needs our help, and knowing how to react can be really important.”
“It’s not always just about that students are using, but maybe people we know or people that we pass by on the street and being able to not be bystanders or to know how to intervene in one of those situations can be really important.”
Talking with health center and nurses. To bulk buy narcan have to be officially recognized 501 c The school is but the club is not, so have to go through the health center.
House bill expanded who can distribute narcan, ruled that drug test strips are no longer drug paraphanelia. Smith and Burger have certification to train people how to use narcan.
Wednesdays 5-6 in Fowler 237 Board meetings 12:3–1:30 on mondays in the Library. Club email email@example.com Instagram lc_harmreductioncoc
“Right now fentanyl test strips are pretty accessible to us, it’s just getting them to the student body,” Smith said.
The club has plenty of fentanyl test strips to distribute to students. They are also talking with campus living about possibly making fentanyl test strips available to students in dorms and distributing them through RAs.
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