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Dose of Reality: UAlbany students carrying Narcan, answering heroin overdose calls

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ALBANY, NY (WRGB) This Wednesday, CBS 6 is launching an initiative called 'Dose of Reality'.

We're taking an in-depth look at the state of heroin addiction in our community and making a commitment to find solutions to the opioid epidemic.

Right now, a program at the University at Albany is garnering national attention for a program that has students answering crisis calls.

“Hi, what would you like to talk about?”

At the University at Albany, students are on the front lines of the opioid epidemic.

Dolores Cimini is the Director of the Middle Earth Peer Assistance Program.

“The students staffing the hotline on the weekend sleep in the room where the hotline phones are,” Cimini said.

Middle Earth is a student organization made up of about 150-200 students during any one semester. They undergo training to help answer calls on their crisis hotline that runs 24 hours a day on weekends.

“About 10% of those calls involve immediate risk for suicide or homicide where we immediately need to call police,” Cimini said.

The hotline receives about 1400 calls per year from students and adults on or off-campus, some of those calls are for heroin abuse.

“Maybe someone who’s overdosed, maybe from a friend who’s in the same room,” Nicole Bulanchuk said.

Nicole Bulanchuk is the outgoing president for Middle Earth.

The students get help to those callers.

“We call 911 immediately and try to get their location as soon as we can,” Bulanchuk said.

The Middle Earth students are trained in injecting the opioid reversal drug Narcan, and carry it with them.

“It’s a really helpful tool to have in your pocket in case someone is going through an overdose,” September Johnson said.

September Johnson is a Middle Earth alumni, and is still involved in the program.

The students also refer callers to organizations that can help their specific needs, and offer long-term support to their peers on campus with the guidance of trained psychologists.

“There’s a growing body of literature that strongly supports peer-to-peer interventions in alcohol and drug abuse,” Cimini said.

The student volunteers at Middle Earth can earn course credit for their work, toward a career in addressing mental health issues, like addiction.

Our campaign focused on the opioid epidemic officially begins with a one-hour special airing Wednesday June 6th, 2018 at 7pm on the CW 15, CBS 6 Albany Facebook live and cbs6albany.com.

Your Voice, Your Future: Dose of Reality will focus on the struggle, the stigma and solutions surrounding the crisis.

You'll also be seeing weekly reports focused on solving this public health emergency.

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