California’s Public Colleges Stock Up on Narcan

A new law requires most California public institutions of higher education to have Narcan on campus. Here's which schools have it — and which haven't yet ordered the lifesaving medicine.
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  • Narcan, a brand name for naloxone, is a medicine that rapidly reverses an opioid overdose.
  • California's Campus Opioid Safety Act requires that naloxone be available on public college campuses in California by Jan. 1, 2023.
  • As of the deadline, the state had distributed 21,780 units of naloxone to colleges and universities across the state.

New data from the California Department of Health Care Services (DHCS) shows which of the state's public colleges are stocking Narcan on campus — and which aren't.

California now requires public colleges to offer the opioid overdose reversal medication Narcan, a brand name for naloxone, to students and train them how to use it effectively.

The Campus Opioid Safety Act, signed into law in August, required all 166 community colleges and 23 California State University (CSU) schools to offer students free Narcan by Jan. 1, 2023.

The legislation does not include the University of California (UC) system in its requirements. However, it does ask the UC system to comply with the requirements.

Eight out of the 10 UC schools, including the University of California, San Francisco, requested kits from the Naloxone Distribution Project (NDP), a DHCS project that distributes free Narcan to organizations, schools, and universities.

However, the UC schools in Riverside and Irvine have not, according to data from DHCS.

Schools have to apply through the state's standing order and include a distribution plan if they are requesting more than 48 units of Narcan for their campus. Applicants can request between 12 and 1,200 units depending on their projected need, Anthony Cava, spokesperson for the DHCS, told BestColleges.

While schools and universities make up 15% of approved applications for NDP, they account for only 3% of kits approved and less than 1% of reported reversals, according to data from NDP.

As of Jan. 1, NDP has approved 216 applications from colleges and universities and distributed 21,780 units of naloxone to colleges and universities across the state, according to DHCS.

The largest requests from public universities were from UC Santa Cruz and CSU Chico with 1,200 and 720 kits requested and approved, respectively. Additionally, Stanford University, a private institution, requested the second-highest amount in the state, with 756 kits.

The largest requests from a community college were from Monterey Peninsula College for 312 kits for the Maurine Church Coburn School of Nursing and Pasadena City College Student Health Services for 240 kits, according to data provided to BestColleges by DHCS.

Wait times for schools to receive the medication fluctuates due to limited supply. Cava said that the wait time is approximately 4-6 weeks between when an application is submitted to DHCS and when it is processed.

"Due to increasing rates of applications submitted to DHCS for naloxone as a result of the impact of fentanyl and rising overdose rates, the wait times for naloxone from the NDP varies," he said in a statement. "DHCS closely tracks application requests and supply available … and is not aware of any issues with naloxone supply."

The California Overdose Surveillance Dashboard shows 21,016 emergency room visits and 7,175 deaths related to any opioid overdose in 2021. The state's data is still not finalized for 2022.