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LA-based nonprofit End Overdose educates students nationwide about drug overdose

By Jonah Danesh

Oct. 22, 2023 7:57 p.m.

This post was updated Oct. 22 at 10:20 p.m.

End Overdose, a Los Angeles-based nonprofit, is expanding to college campuses across the country to educate and equip students to prevent drug-related overdoses.

Gianna Uy, a UCLA alumnus and the nonprofit’s director of external affairs and programs, said she first became involved with the organization during her senior year of college. Uy said she and current president Maddie Ward decided to form the first End Overdose chapter on a college campus at UCLA after seeing a need for long-term resources on college campus, noting that overdoses are the leading cause of death for those ages 18 to 45.

“We just realized that there was a need for recurring resources and sustainability of resources,” Uy said. “We decided to set up End Overdose’s first chapter in order to help that sustainability of resources for students in years to come.”

She added that she sought to ensure every student has the knowledge and resources to stay safe as there is a lack of accessible education about drug use on college campuses.

Ward said the choice to start the UCLA chapter was deeply personal. After being exposed to overdoses in high school, she wanted to know more about how to prevent and respond to those situations, she said.

Uy said that while she was unsure how her peers would respond to the idea at first, both students and faculty were receptive. With the state of California also making efforts to address overdose, she said it was easy to implement and that the club is exponentially growing.

She added that End Overdose focuses its efforts on college campuses, whose populations are particularly vulnerable to drug use. In the 2022-2023 school year, the UCLA chapter distributed more than 300 doses of Naloxone – a medication used to prevent overdoses from opioids – and more than 9,000 fentanyl test strips, Uy said.

“A lot of the organizations on campus reach out to the chapters in order to get these trainings and resources,” she said. “It’s definitely well-received within the community.”

Ward added that the UCLA chapter’s influence extends beyond campus through collaborations with Greek life and pre-health organizations. The chapter also collaborates with organizations such as Safe Place for Youth to provide resources for young people experiencing homelessness, she said.

End Overdose has also expanded to college communities across the nation, Uy said. Sophie Kennedy, a third-year student at the University of Colorado Boulder, opened a chapter of End Overdose on her campus last year.

“I saw a need for opioid overdose prevention at CU (Boulder),” Kennedy said. “There wasn’t Naloxone available, free or easily, and End Overdose had already kind of laid the groundwork for all of these things we put into place. So I reached out to them, not knowing that there were other college chapters at the time.”

Kennedy’s chapter has been active on campus, providing around 1,700 fentanyl testing strips and 250 doses of Naloxone in the last three months. She added that they have collaborated with the state of Colorado, which now provides Naloxone for the chapter.

“While it seems like we are very expansive, we do have … our ties in grassroots organizations,” Uy said. “Community support goes a long way, and it’s what keeps us running.”

Ward said End Overdose holds bimonthly meetings, bringing together chapter presidents from across the country to share results and further develop the organization. She added that she hopes such education and outreach about the negative impacts of overdoses will help people be safer and more informed about substance use and its associated risks.

Ward also emphasized the importance of inclusivity in the organization’s outreach efforts, adding that the chapter approaches students without judging them – allowing it to reach students who would otherwise not ask for help.

She added that she looks forward to seeing the chapter’s work expand and potentially collaborating with UCLA administration to reach a greater audience.

“I think the biggest accomplishment is just seeing how many people we were able to train and how many people were actually interested in educating themselves on overdose prevention,” Ward said. “That’s been really wonderful every year.”

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