ALBANY, N.Y. (WTEN) — On the heels of Red Ribbon Week, Governor Kathy Hochul signed legislation on Monday that will require all public colleges in New York to have a supply of opioid antagonists in their housing facilities. Opioid antagonists, such as Naloxone—commonly known as Narcan—are lifesaving medicines that reverse the fatal effects of an opioid overdose.

In addition to ensuring all SUNY and CUNY-owned or operated facilities stock this vital medicine, resident assistants and other designated college employees will be trained to administer them in case of emergency.

“By signing this legislation, lifesaving overdose prevention medicine will be required in SUNY and CUNY campus housing, as well as trained staff on-site – leading to faster response times and helping prevent needless tragedies,” Governor Hochul said. “My Administration will continue to work every day to fight the opioid epidemic and provide New Yorkers with further access to lifesaving resources, services, and care.”

The bill comes in response to the ongoing opioid epidemic crisis. Opioid overdoses have surpassed gun-related murders and car crashes as the leading cause of death for Americans under 50 years old, with as many as 64,000 people last year estimated to have lost their lives. New York State is no exception to this crisis, experiencing over 2,900 fatally overdosed in 2019.

The risk of overdose deaths has continued to be high among all demographic groups and residents of almost every New York City neighborhood. “By having on-site opioid antagonists in schools and trained resident assistants capable of administering these antigens, these lifesaving medications are a commonsense solution to preventing more overdose-related fatalities,” a spokesperson in Governor Hochul’s office said.

“Every second counts during an opioid overdose, and by requiring Narcan in all SUNY and CUNY housing, with trained student RAs on standby, we will save more young lives and transform on-campus safety,” said State Senator Michelle Hinchey. “I’m incredibly proud to sponsor this legislation which will help us fight the opioid epidemic from every angle, saving lives, and I thank the Governor for signing it into law.”

This signing is in recognition of Red Ribbon Week, part of the largest drug-abuse prevention campaign in the United States. The Red Ribbon campaign serves to mobilize communities to educate youth and encourage participation in drug prevention activities. Since its inception, the campaign has reached millions of U.S. children and families in its effort to keep communities safe, healthy, and drug-free, through parent training and networking.