Listening, Learning, Leading: A series on NKU's role in the heroin crisis.

A regional heroin epidemic hits home for many at NKU. A year-long series of stories published for The Northerner, spotlights ways the university is involved. Topics include the potential of police officers carrying naloxone, students and faculty researching overdose prevention, the impact of heroin on the curriculum and members of the campus community involved in promoting understanding of addiction and advocating for treatment.

Series by Abby Anstead

From addiction to advocacy

Jason Merrick didn’t realize he needed to get into treatment until he had come out of a blackout, face down in the middle of a busy street in downtown Columbus. The now 44-year-old student is in the Master’s program for social work in which he works to reduce the stigma of addiction. He also runs a drug and alcohol program for inmates at the Kenton County jail and works with Northern Kentucky People Advocating for Recovery to help those struggling with addiction find treatment.

Book Breaks the Silence

Best-selling author Sam Quinones exposes the dark roots of the black tar heroin trade in his book, “Dreamland.” NKU Provost Sue Ott Rowlands realized this was an important book for our region. Coinciding with the construction of the Health Innovation Center and the development of addiction science studies, she developed an initiative to bring Quinones to NKU to facilitate conversation and break the silence.

An Agent for Change

Naloxone, a drug administered to reverse an overdose, is considered controversial by many in the community. Kristie Blanchet disagrees. Blanchet, a student in the Master’s program for social work, believes saving lives comes first. She developed a training program for law enforcement officials, agencies and even parents and siblings on how to administer the life-saving drug.

NKU police to carry naloxone by end of summer

University police have information that students have used heroin -- not necessarily on campus. Regardless Chief Les Kachurek recognizes the crisis faced by the community, and he wants his officers to be prepared should they encounter an overdose. This prompted Kachurek to ensure that all personnel would be equipped with naloxone by the fall semester.

Aiding or Enabling

Syringe access exchange programs have gained recent traction in Northern Kentucky, but that does not mean they are fully supported. These programs exchange used needles for sterile equipment. Nursing and psychology professors advocate for needle exchange programs. But an NKU alum, who is now a senator, believes that it is morally wrong to force taxpayers to fund these programs. “Aiding or Enabling” explores the split opinions on this controversial practice.

University police officers equipped with naloxone

Sixteen naloxone kits were delivered to the Northern Kentucky University Police Department on April 1, making them one of the first university police departments in the region to carry the life-saving drug.

Student research shows drug prevalence on campus

A group of NKU social work majors surveyed random students and found that a significant percentage used some kind of substance, ranging from marijuana to heroin, within the past year.

Finding the story: A reflection on my heroin series

Lead reporter recalls her most proud and painful moments while following the region's heroin epidemic.