Temple needs to respond to substance use

The death of two students as a result of substance use is a clear indicator that Temple is not immune to the statewide epidemic.

In one week, the Temple community lost two students to overdoses. Senior Fox School of Business student Michael Paytas, 24, died on Nov. 27 after being found unresponsive in Paley Library. On Saturday, junior Fox student James Orlando, 20, was found unresponsive in his off-campus apartment.

According to the Drug Enforcement Administration, about 4,600 Pennsylvanians died as a result of drug overdose in 2016.The Temple community is clearly not immune to the statewide epidemic surrounding substance use, and administrators must shoulder the responsibility of helping keep students safe.

Over the years, some university officials have acknowledged the prominence of substance use. In February 2017, Temple Police officers started carrying naloxone, a medication that can reverse the effects of an opioid overdose and save lives. Four faculty members also sit on Mayor Jim Kenney’s Task Force to Combat the Opioid Epidemic, which works to find solutions to the opioid problem in Philadelphia.

We commend Temple’s existing efforts, but the university can always do more on Main Campus to help educate students about substance use and prevent fatalities.

Even Temple Student Government has gotten involved in relieving substance use. Last semester, George Basile, Parliament’s former junior class representative, proposed a resolution for on-campus recovery housing. The resolution passed, but the university has made no meaningful strides toward implementing on-campus housing specifically for students in recovery from substance use disorder. Last week, Parliament passed a binding resolution urging university departments, including the Wellness Resource Center, teach students to administer naloxone.

If the university wants to appropriately care for its students, it must continue to address substance use in meaningful ways. Perhaps, in addition to Temple Police, Allied Universal guards should also carry naloxone with them as they monitor on-campus buildings. Perhaps when Peabody Hall is demolished over winter break, it could be replaced with a new residence hall, complete with a floor dedicated to students in recovery.

The Temple community suffered not one, but two substance-related tragedies this week. We will remember Michael Paytas and James Orlando and the impact they had here on Main Campus. It is important for the university to recognize these students too, with increased awareness and action regarding substance use on campus.

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